Infomotions, Inc.Free will and four English philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hume and Mill / by the Rev. Joseph Rickaby, S.J. / Rickaby, Joseph, 1845-1932




Author: Rickaby, Joseph, 1845-1932
Title: Free will and four English philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hume and Mill / by the Rev. Joseph Rickaby, S.J.
Publisher: London : Burns, 1906.
Tag(s): hume, david, 1711-1776; hobbes, thomas, 1588-1679; locke, john, 1632-1704; mill, john stuart, 1806-1873; free will and determinism; mill; thomas hobbes; stuart mill; necessity; john stuart; david hume
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3 I 




FREE WILL 

AND FOUR ENGLISH 
PHILOSOPHERS (HOBBES 
LOCK, HUME AND MILL) 



\ 



FREEWILL 

AND FOUR ENGLISH PHILO 
SOPHERS (HOBBES, LOCKE 
HUME AND MILL) BY THE 
REV. JOSEPH RICKABY, S.J. 



"The belief in freedom 
is at the root of our entire 
conception of personality " 
Mallock, Rcconstruflionof 
Belief 



EX LIBRIS 
ST, BASIL S SCHOLASTICATE 



No. 



BURNS & GATES I BENZIGER BROS 

28 Orchard Street New York Chicago 

London W Cincinnati 

1906 



NOV1619S8 



All Right, R ei eri. tJ 



THE PREFACE 

IN their original form these pages were written in 
the years 1871-4. Since then they have been sub 
mitted to much castigation and amendment, less per 
haps than they deserve, at the hands of the writer, 
then youthful, now an elderly man. This fact may 
account for some inequalities of style. Certain "tender 
memories of the past" have stayed my hand from 
pruning away all traces of the exuberance of youth. 

Meanwhile the importance of the subject has grown 
rather than diminished, chiefly, I think, owing to the 
prevalence of the Kantian philosophy. I may as well 
forewarn the reader that Kant is not discussed here, 
except indirectly, in so far as the phenomenalism of 
Hume may be considered to have prepared the way 
for Kant. I have written elsewhere: "Though men 
are slow to see it and loth to own it, from reminis 
cences I think of the odium theologicum hanging about 
the question, free will still remains the hub and 
centre of philosophical speculation."* In this work the 
subject is treated entirely on philosophical grounds: 
that is to say, there is no reference to grace, predesti 
nation, or the Fall. Thus St Augustine stands out of 
the controversy: so too Calvin and Jansenius. My 

* "Free Will in God and Man," pp. 142-155, in the Second 
Series of my Oxford and Cambridge Conferences, 1900-1901 : see also 
in my "Political and Moral Essays, 1902, an Essay on "Morality with 
out Free Will." 



vj FREE WILL 

method is to quote a passage from the English philo 
sopher under examination, and then discuss it. The 
method has its drawbacks, but it ensures definiteness, 
and seems about as fair to the philosopher discussed 
as any other form of procedure. It is not the writer s 
fault if the reader has not his Hobbes, or his Locke, 
or his Hume by his side, and does not read round 
and study in the context the extract presented to him. 
The faff that man has free will is far more certain, 
it is a point of Catholic faith, than any explanation 
/IOVP he has it. As to how free will works, the Church 
has given no explanation: there is much divergence 
even of orthodox opinion, and, wherever my reading 
has travelled, considerable obscurity. The fact is usually 
proved by the indirect method of enlarging upon the 
consequences of a denial of free will. That method I 
too have frequently employed. But further I offer 
some positive view of the precise working of free 
will. I have not borrowed it from Locke. I arrived at 
the view, or rather was led into it, in the year 1868; 
and it has satisfied my mind ever since. It will be 
found, however, to approximate to a view put for 
ward, on second thoughts, by Locke.* The view I 
take is briefly this. To will at all, our will must be 
struck by a motive, which raises in us what I have 
have called a "spontaneous complacency." As the four 
philosophers under review all agree, and I agree with 
them, this complacency is a fact of physical sequence, 
a necessity, under the circumstances. But it is not yet 
a volition. It does not become a volition until it is 
* See Extraft 8 from Locke, pp. 100-104. 



THE PREFACE vij 

hugged, embraced, enhanced, under advertence, by 
the conscious self. This process takes time, I do not 
mean so many seconds measured by the watch, for 
thought time goes on other wheels than motion time, 
but still it takes time. Free will turns upon the 
absence of any need of your making up your mind 
at once to accept the particular complacency thus pre 
sent in your soul: observe, you cannot here and now 
accept any other; you cannot here and now accept 
what is not here and now offered; you cannot just at 
present fling yourself upon the absent. Thus time is 
gained for rival motives to come up, according to the 
ordinary laws of association, perception, or personal 
intercourse: each of these motives excites its own 
necessary complacency, till at last some present com 
placency is accepted and endorsed by the person ; and 
that is an acl: of free will. Not to have a regressus in in- 
finitum, we must further observe that no volition is 
requisite simply to hesitate, delay, and withhold your 
acceptance of any present complacency, in facl:, to re 
main undecided and irresolute. You may, of course, put 
forth a positive volition to wait and see more of the 
question: all I say is that such a positive volition is 
not indispensable; your will may hang fire without 
your resolving to be irresolute: which important point 
Locke never came clearly to remark. 

This explanation may not account for free will in 
GOD and in His holy angels; but in so difficult a matter 
it is much if we can form some theory which a philo 
sopher may debate, and a sound theologian will not 
bar as "heretical," "erroneous," or "temerarious." 



viij FREE WILL 

I may add that while I am much concerned that my 
reader should not be a determinist, I am compara 
tively indifferent whether he accepts my explanation 
of free will, or any other, or regards the process as 
inexplicable. J. R. 

Tope s Hall, Oxford, 

Midsummer, 1906. 



THE CONTENTS 
THOMAS HOBBES 

Seftion I. Doctrine of free will stated. Not every action free, nor 
every free action equally free. Calculability of human action (cf. 
Hume, Sedions III, IV; Mill, Seftions I, VIII) Page I X 

Seftion II. Spontaneous, Voluntary, Secondarily-automatic 7 

Stflion III. Cause and condition 10 

Seftisn IV. Sufficient cause 14 

Seftion V. Moral character of the Deity on the necessarian hypo 
thesis (cf. Hume, Section XI). Predication of GOD and His 
creatures analogous, not univocal 1 6 

Sfftion VI. Necessarian theory of punishment (cf. Mill, Sections 

XI, XII) 22 

Seftion VII. Necessarian view of consultation. Neccssarianism re 
nounced in practice. Its effects on morality (cf. pp. 195, 225) 24 
Seftion VIII. Praise in the absence of free will 28 

Seftion IX. Hobbesian piety 31 

Seftion X. Hobbesian repentance 34 

Seftion XI. Hobbesian prayer 34 

Seftion XII. Hobbesian definition of sin. When voluntarincss may 
co-exist with necessity 36 

Seftion XIII. Compulsion and free will 39 

Seftion XIV. Grades of free will. Freedom not to be confounded 
with power (cf. Locke, Sections I- 1 1 1) 43 

Seftion XV. How far the will can be said to be determined by the 
last practical judgement 50 

Seftion XVI. The abiding now of eternity (cf. Mill, Section II). 
The Heraclitean flux 53 

Seftion XVII. Free will other than the absence of impediments to 
action 63 

Seftion XVIII. A free volition not an entirely new move in the 
mind 66 

Seftion XIX. Necessarianism not provable by the law of excluded 
middle 70 



x FREE WILL 

JOHN LOCKE 

Seflion I. Free will not power to carry out what one wills Page 7 5 
Seflion II. The same 77 

Seflion III. The same (cf. p. zoo) 78 

Seflion IV. Faculty and habit . 8 1 

Seflion V. Examination of the argument that man cannot forbear 
willing for or against any given proposal, and therefore is not 
free. What is irresolution? 82 

Seflion VI. Free will not a regressu; in infinitum. Restatement of the 
process of free will 87 

Seflion VII. Is the will determined by the greatest present uneasi 
ness? St Augustine on the uneasiness of this present life and the 
peace of the life to come 90 

Seflion VIII. Locke s admission in the second edition of his Essay 
that man s liberty lies in his power to suspend the execution 
and satisfaction of his desires while he examines the value of 
them. This suspensory power may operate negatively, without 
any positive volition thereto. Volition can be formed only upon 
present complacency 100 

Seflion IX. It is not true liberty to break loose from the conduct of 
reason 105 

Seflion X. Recapitulation of the argument with Locke 1 06 

DAVID HUME 

Seflion I. A test of contradiction between philosophers, real or 
verbal (cf. p. 194) 1 15 

Seflion II. Idea of necessity, whence derived. Not entirely from the 
uniformity of nature. It involves a consciousness of self, and a 
measuring of self against nature 1 1 7 

Seflion III. Calculability of human actions, so far as our experience 
goes, not inconsistent with free will. The inference of absolute 
calculability rendered suspect by the fact of self-consciousness. 
Ferrier on the consciousness of self 125 

Seflion IV. Principle of habitual volition and principle of averages 
together sufficiently explain the calculability of human actions, 
without recourse to necessarianism 133 

Seflion V. Free will and personality. Root error of an impersonal 
psychology (cf. Mill, Seftion III) 13? 

Seflion VI. Necessity a quality of the agent, not of the looker-on. 
How is it that we are so much at fault in the prediction of our 
own conduct? 142 



THE CONTENTS xj 

Seflion VII. Cause and explanation. Every free volition hasa"cause," 
but not an "explanation" in the technical sense (cf. Mill, Sec 
tions III, VIII) Page 144 

Sefiion VIII. Free will and chance 150 

Seflion IX. Doctrines theologically "dangerous." Necessarianism not 
merely dangerous, but contradictory of the Church s teaching I 5 2 

Seflion X. Influence of character on conduct. A free volition emi 
nently a personal act 156 

Sefiion XI. Theological consequences of necessarianism. Hume against 
Hume. Vulpine humility 159 

JOHN STUART MILL 

Seflion I. The doctrine called Philosophical Necessity unproven by 
experience 165 

Seflion II. Free will and divine foreknowledge 1 66 

Seflion III. " Mysterious constraint," " magical spell," " mystical 
tie " of cause and effect, misconceptions of the phenomenalist 
school due to their ignoring of personality. Volition not a mere 
phenomenon of physical science I 70 

Seflion IV. Necessity as meaning " uncounteradtableness " 178 

Seflion V. Mill and the Owenite. Is a man s character formed for 
him or by him? 183 

Seflion VI. Can we alter our character? 185 

Seflion VII. Mill admits free will after all (he revokes his conces 
sion, p. 231 : cf. Locke, Section VIII: Hume, Section XI, for simi 
lar concessions. Hobbes alone never flinches, but see p. 28) 1 86 

Seflion VIII. Why brute agency is necessary agency. Away from 
necessity, no induction possible. Calculability of human action. 
" Cause " and " explanation " 1 89 

Seflion IX. Consciousness of free will 198 

Seflion X. Are we conscious of being able to act in opposition to the 
strongest present desire or aversion ? (cf. pp. 53, 103) 201 

Seflion XI. Utilitarian theory of punishment (cf. Hobbes, Section 
VI). New treatment of homicidal mania 205 

Seflion XII. Retributive punishment. Connexion of sin and suffer 
ing, no mere subjective association. Civil punishment, how retri 
butive 216 

Seflion XIII. List of actions good and evil unchanged by determi 
nism. Intellectual necessity. Brute necessity 225 

Seflion XIV. Mill s final protest against fatalism. Modified fatalism. 
Roundabout fatalism. Determinism: fatalism in theory, not in 
practice 229 



FREE WILL 

AND FOUR ENGLISH PHILOSOPHERS 
THOMAS HOBBES 

Of Liberty and Necessity : a Treatise wherein all Con 
troversy concerning Predestination, E/fffion, Free 
Will, Grace, Merits, Reprobation, etc., is fully de 
cided and cleared: in answer to a Treatise Writ 
ten by the Bishop of Londonderry on the same 
subject 

I 

"\ T 7HEREAS he says thus, If I be free to write 
V V this discourse, I have obtained the cause ; I deny 
that to be true, for it is enough to his freedom of writing 
that he had not written it, unless he would himself. 
... It may be his Lordship [the Bishop] thinks it all 
one to say, I was free to write it, and, It was not neces 
sary I should write it. But I think otherwise. For he 
is free to do a thing, that may do it if he have the 
will to do it; and may forbear if he have the will to for 
bear. And yet if there be a necessity that he shall have 
the will to do it, the aclion is necessarily to follow; and 
if there be a necessity that he shall have the will to 
forbear, the forbearing also will be necessary. The 
question therefore is not, whether a man be a free agent, 
that is to say, whether he can write or forbear, speak 



2 FREE WILL 

or be silent, according to his will; but whether the will 
to write and the will to forbear come upon him accord 
ing to his will or according to anything else in his own 
power, I acknowledge this Hberty^ that_I j:jUL_do. if_J.. 
willi .buL_tQ._say: J_ .can. will" if I wjll I take .to be an 
absurd speech." 

Hobbes considers human agency to be at once free 
and necessitated: free, because the action follows the 
will of the agent; necessitated, inasmuch as the agent, 
under the circumstances, could not possibly have willed 
otherwise than as he did will. 

Hobbes takes it to be an absurd speech to say I can 
will if 1 will. What indeed is the meaning of that 
phrase in the mouths of such as use it? An outline of 
what they mean would run thus: Upon adverting to 
a present affection, a like or a dislike which has risen 
up within me, I am often competent either to take up 
or not to take up that affection: if I do take it up, 1 
elicit a volition or full act of my will, which is a free act 
inasmuch as I take up, adopt and sanction for my own 
an affection which I am competent not to sanction; 
while for my sanctioning it no reason can be given be 
yond the fact that I, a person, that is an intelligent 
nature, exerting my privilege as a person, do choose to 
lend myself to the affection which has come over me. 

An example. An opportunity offers for striking a lu 
crative but unjust bargain. The idea recurs of securing 
the gain, and my breast warms with approbetion of that 
idea. So far I have been the passive victim of associa 
tions and feelings. There has been no personal action 
emanating from me. I now advert to my mind s spon- 



THOMAS HOBBES 3 

taneous and unauthorised approval of this idea. If I 
continue to approve of it under advertence, spontaneity 
passes into freedom, the movement started from with 
out has been sustained from within me. I have willed 
that which at first I felt. But perhaps I do not decide 
quite so readily. I let feelings and the ideas which oc 
casion them troop in associated trains across the 
stage of my consciousness. I retain none of them. Con 
flicting thoughts of gain and of honesty, the joys of a 
good bargain, the remorses of a fraud, replace one 
another, as past mental experience marshals their array. 
Whilst this process lasts, I am said to be thinking the 
matter over. At length my mind is made up. The idea 
of improving the opportunity or else the idea of letting 
the opportunity pass has recurred: it has given me com 
placency, as it gave me before, and this time I have 
embraced the complacency. Thereby I have done a 
voluntary act. I may indeed recall it, but still it is done. 
And the act, besides being voluntary, is free, for in it 
I have embraced a complacency which I need not have 
embraced. 

The above is a mere statement of doctrine, not a 
proof. But surely it is something to state clearly a doc 
trine which adversaries pronounce nonsensical. Non 
sense generally will not bear stating. If, then, I have 
presented an intelligible, definite theory, there is pre 
sumption of its not being nonsense. 

Great part of the discredit that attaches to the doc 
trine of free will comes from its being supposed to 
mean that whatever a man may do from morning to 
night he does everything alike freely. Nothing of the 



4 FREE WILL 

sort. A reflective adult performs perhaps a dozen a<5tions 
a day that are altogether free: a child, whether a child 
proper or a grown baby, say half a dozen: call another 
hundred actions free more or less, and you may de 
scribe the rest of the man s daily course as shaped 
without advertence and without freedom, except such 
part of it as is determined by previous free acts. That 
part would be technically termed free in its cause. The 
freedom of an agent bears a direct ratio to his actual 
knowledge of what he is about: now as mankind know 
what they are about, some more, some less, some 
scarcely at all, and none always with an actual know 
ledge, it cannot be said that all the actions of men are 
free, or that all their free actions are equally free. 

Much light falls on this matter from the counsels of 
Christian ascetics. Let me point in passing to the splen 
did psychological education which the Church presses 
upon her children, teaching them to lead an interior 
life, to examine their consciences, to confess their sins 
not of word and deed only, but also sins of thought. 
These Christian spiritualists, then, warn us against 
doing our actions through routine and custom, telling 
us that we shall gain little merit by such mechanical 
performances. Why little merit? Because merit attaches 
to conscious agents, not to automata; to freedom, not 
to machinery. A creature of habit, working blindly in 
a secondarily automatic groove, may be a useful ma 
chine, but scarcely a virtuous man. At the same time 
we learn from the above-cited authorities that a gene 
ral pious intention not revoked suffices to impart 
merit to a long sequence of work gone through with- 



THOMAS HOBBES 5 

out further advertence. This instruction clears away 
a difficulty that is often urged against our freedom. 
How, it is asked, can that human aclion be free which 
may be unerringly calculated beforehand to be about 
to occur? "When a commander orders his soldiers to 
wheel, to deploy, to form square, to fire a battery,"* 
Mr Samuel Bailey demands, "is he less confident in 
the result than he is when he performs some physical 
operation, when he draws a sword, pulls a trigger, or 
seals a dispatch?" Supposing that he is equally confi 
dent of both results, still I say the physical result is 
a sheer necessity, while the moral result is due to a 
foregone free volition. Those soldiers declare their will 
once for all to wheel, deploy, form square, or fire a bat 
tery at the word of command. They willed when they 
need not have willed to undertake these manoeuvres. 
They may be conscripts, but they are not dummies; 
they took their allotted service freely. They were not 
brought into the ranks like sacks of stones: they came 
there, and no one could have foretold for certain that 
such and such men individually would consent to 
come. But once they have come, their officers calcu 
late upon that general intention of obedience of which 
the uniform is a pledge. The soldier need not will to 
obey for every order he executes: his initial purpose is 
enough, if he does not depart from it. But so to de 
part would require an express new volition, as obe 
dience is in possession. A volition, however, does not 
spring up without a motive. If then an officer has no 
ground to imagine any motive for mutiny rife amongst 
* Letten on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, second scries, p. 166. 



6 FREE WILL 

his men, he relies upon their previous loyal purpose 
working itself out unopposed; and he feels as sure of 
their muscles as they of their powder. 

It is further to be observed that a perfect apparent 
good, or in other words, a good which quite satisfies 
him to whom it occurs, does not leave the will the 
liberty of refusing. But such a perfect good hardly ever 
presents itself to an adult who adverts to what he en 
joys. The psalmist sings, "Take delight in the LORD." 
Undoubtedly the LORD fills with delight the blessed 
souls who "see Him as He is"; but He seldom satis 
fies our capacity for delight, who see Him "in a glass, 
darkly." Therefore the delight which we consciously 
take in the LORD is free, and if free also meritorious. 
It is our present sore distress, and at the same time 
the condition of our merit and eternal reward, that the 
ability to conceive enjoyment in us vastly transcends 
our ability to enjoy. Take any enjoyment that you can: 
think of it, and your thought has outrun it; you want 
more. There are rare moments when some unexpected 
blessing received fills our heart brimming over: no 
thing seems wanting then to our bliss but continu 
ance. But the very names of rapture, transport, ecstasy 
applied to such states show that in these states feeling 
momentarily precludes reflection. We are not free in 
those moments: no mind is free without reflection. But 
when "Richard is himself again," when we reflect upon 
our state, forthwith we conceive something better and 
our liberty of choice returns. By our use of liberty we 
make our way to our lasting city. There we shall gaze 
face to face on perfect goodness, and yield for eternity 



THOMAS HOBBES 7 

our feeling, our understanding and our will to the 
sweet constraints of His love. Till then "content is 
not the natural frame of any human mind, but is the 
offspring of compromise."* 

II 

"All voluntary actions, where the thing that indu- 
ceth the will is not fear, are called also spontaneous. . . 
But every spontaneous action is not therefore volun 
tary, for voluntary presupposes some precedent deli 
beration. . . His Lordship is deceived, if he think 
any spontaneous action, after once being checked in 
it, differs from an action voluntary and elective; for 
even the setting of a man s foot in the posture for 
walking, and the action of ordinary eating, was once 
deliberated of how and when it should be done; and 
though afterwards it became easy and habitual so as to 
be done without forethought, yet that does not hinder 
but that the act is voluntary and proceedeth from 
election." 

A voluntary action Hobbes defines to be a premed 
itated action: a spontaneous action he defings.tn he any 
ac{ion t premeditated or unpremeditated, that \% not dic 
tated by fear. He continues: Once we have stopped 
over a spontaneous action, and thought in the act how 
we should do it, every subsequent spontaneous repe 
tition, besides being spontaneous, is also a premedi 
tated or voluntary action. Whence he concludes against 
the Bishop, who had laid it down that spontaneous 
actions were necessary, voluntary actions free, that an 
action may be spontaneous and voluntary at the same 

* Bain s Emotions and Will, p. 453. 



8 FREE WILL 

time, in other words, "that necessity and election may 
stand together." 

I cannot think that Bishop Bramhall, when he called 
spontaneous actions necessitated actions, classed as 
spontaneous all actions not dictated by fear. That is 
Hobbes s account of the word spontaneous. But had it 
been the Bishop s, he would never have written against 
Hobbes in defence of free will, for, allowing that actions 
not dictated by fear were necessitated, he could not 
possibly pretend that actions dictated by fear were 
free; so that, between actions done for fear and actions 
not done for fear, all actions whatsoever would be done 
of necessity; that is, the Bishop would have agreed 
with Hobbes. 

Surely, too, it is a strange argument that habitual 
actions are premeditated, because the actions, which 
formed the habit, were premeditated. Consider the 
habit of dancing. A pupil curveting for the first time 
before a dancing-master studies every step. But to 
declare in consequence that, when the pupil has become 
an expert, every trip of his "light fantastic toe " in the 
ballroom is a premeditated action, this surely is either 
an abuse of reason or an abuse of language. If Hobbes 
means by "premeditated" what ordinary Englishmen 
mean, namely, "done with forethought," then his con 
clusion does not follow from his premisses; but if he 
means "formerly done with forethought," he must 
be speaking some other language than English. 1 allow 
that the resolution to dance at a ball is a premed 
itated voluntary act, but 1 refuse to extend the appel- 



THOMAS HOBBES 9 

lation to each step which the dancer takes. It is upon 
such habitual operations* that the issue raised by 
Hobbes turns. 

* Called by physiologists "secondarily automatic movements." 
Dr Carpenter says: "There can be no doubt that the nerve-force is 
disposed to pass in special tracks; and it seems probable that while 
some of these are originally marked out for the automatic move 
ments, others [i.e., the nerve-tracks of the secondarily automatic 
movements] may be gradually worn in, so to say, by the habitual 
adions of the will; and that _when a train of sequential actions pri- 

t jquiilj,ijjjeckd by the will has once bcen FeTjnbp^erationrli may"* 
contimie~wi^hQut a"ny~TurTfreT mITiTp nrp ^^JmgL-lhjil-iQJJlEga An 
Tndwdual who is subject to absence of mind, may fall into a reverie 
whilst walking in the streets; his attention may be entirely absorbed 
in a train of thought, and he may be utterly unconscious of any 
interruption in its continuity; and yet during the whole of that 
time his limbs shall have been in motion, carrying him along the 
accustomed path. . . It has been maintained by some metaphysi 
cians and physiologists, that these secondarily automatic movements 
always continue to be voluntary, because their performance is origi 
nally due to a succession of volitional acts, and because, in any par 
ticular case, it is the will which first excites them, whilst an exertion 
ivfll *f ryf^ tp ^ihcck thyn at any time. But this doctrine m- 
thr nntinn that thr will ia ift.a.slaie_j3f j^nauIum-Tila: oscjl/ 
Xjor^bctwecn the train of thought and^ the train of movement; 
whereaTriothing TjTnnrq cgrjtajnjto the individual who is the suject 

^f both, than that the former may HP as nnintrrriipjed _asjf the bpd^ 
were perfectly at rest, and his reverie were taking place in the quie- 
tude of hit own study. Amj_ait commonly happens that, the direction 

.taken is that in whiclTtlie individual is most in the habit of walking. 

Jj^ will not unfrcquently occur that if he had previously intended" 
tojxirsuc soffiti firhprj-hp fimli himttlf, irhi" hl " - "^ -- : " " ""^ 
in a locality which may be very remote from that towards which 
Kia^walk was originally destined; whicji_would not be the case if 
hjJLJJlcni^mcnts had been still under the purposive direction ot tKe 
>yj]l v ^mj_al though^ it js^jjejrjeflly: true that these movements can^ 

^ht^at_jny \\mcL. fcitu cked by an~oHu7t of IIul!Zsgttr} > e]^ rhi? docslibt 

realj^_Midicatc__that_the will has been previously engaged in sustain- 
ing_Lhem; since, for tKe wTTI to act upon them"at" all, the 



io FREE WILL 

Hobbes has used his own terminology, and not his 
adversary s. I crave permission to do likewise. By ^spon 
taneous acl: of the will, then, I understand the compla 
cency which arises from the apprehension of good, 
previous to advertence. This spontaneous act is a 
necessary act. By a voluntary act I understand the ad 
hesion with advertence to a complacency. That act of 
complacency, from being spontaneous, becomes volun 
tary by being consciously adhered to. If the complacency 
does not quite satisfy him who is the subject of it, and 
yet he adheres to it, then his voluntary act is free, he 
adheres where he need not. But if the complacency 
under advertence does quite satisfy him, he cannot but 
adhere; his adhesion then is an act at once voluntary 
and necessary. Therefore voluntariness and necessity 
may stand together, as Hobbes argued they might. But 
it does not follow that they commonly do stand toge 
ther in this world. 

Ill 

"That which I say necessitateth and determina- 
teth every action, is the sum of all things, which being 
now existent, conduce and concur to the production of 
that action hereafter, whereof if any one thing now were 
wanting, the effect could not be produced." 

A special interest attaches to this extract: for if we 

read phenomena in place of things, and infallibly deter- 

_must be recalled to thgm^Qd_llie^ejebjrumaniisl-bj 1 Lberated.iram 
itsjDrevious self-occupation." The same authority terms the forma- 
tion~bf~a secondarily TuToTTTaTic habitT"" the gradual conversion of 
a vbliHoriaHnto an "automatic train of movements7so"tharaTlast this 
rain, once started, shall continue to run down~of itselt." 
"pks of Human PAyfie/o^y~p^r^2, 610, seventh edition. 



THOMAS HOBBES n 

minateth for necessitated and determinateth^ those slight 
amendments will bring Hobbes exactly to express a 
view very generally taken at the present day regarding 
causation both physical and mental. 

For an instance of physical causation we will con 
sider the orbit of the earth. I will enumerate "the sum 
of all things which being now existent conduce and con 
cur to the production of that action, whereof if any one 
thing now were wanting, the effect could not be pro 
duced." There are the sun and the remaining planets; 
item, the distance of the earth from each of the other 
planets and from the sun; item, the tangential velocity 
of the earth; item, the respective masses of earth, sun 
and planets; item, the absence of further perturbatory 
influences, such as would arise from the introduction 
of a new member into the solar system. Were any part 
of this enumeration left out, and no compensation given, 
"the effect could not be produced," i.e., the earth would 
not then describe the path which it does describe under 
its present data.* 

* The absence of influences thit might have been present in a 
particular case, but are not, need not be specified in the Hobbesian 
view. All history being an unbroken chain of consequent following 
antecedent, "necessarily," according to Hobbes, "uniformly," ac 
cording to Mill, pure possibility, or "that which might be but 
never shall," becomes a name of nothing. "Every act which is pos 
sible shall at some time be produced" (Hobbes, First Grounds of 
Philosophy, chap. ix). Therefore to talk of what might have been. 
how, for instance, an_effcri; whit-h h.i< followed frpmone cause might 
liavc followed from another, " I take to be an absurd speech." To 
The best ofj 



from another ^ans"; but now that it hat fnllnwed from this, WJG 
Know thafcould not have followed from aught else. Modern Nomi- 
nalists^perceiving that \$ could means did, then could not means did not, 



12 FREE WILL 

The older philosophers would distinguish among the 
enumerated determinants of the orbit aforesaid. The 
attracting bodies they would style the "causes," but 
the disposition of those bodies in space, along with the 
absence of perturbation, they would style the " condi 
tions " of the particular effect observable in that orbit. 
And they would define cause, "the thing which acts"; 
and conditions, "the circumstances under which a cause 
acts." The modern school, however, of which Hobbes 
was a forerunner, applies the name condition to " each 
of the things which produce and concur to the produc 
tion of that action," and denominates the "sum" of 
those things the "cause" of the action or effect pro 
duced. "The cause," says Mill,* "is the sum total of 
the conditions, positive and negative, taken together." 
If one of these conditions were wanting, and were not 
otherwise supplied, the effect could not be produced. 
Their "sum," in Hobbesian phrase, "necessitated and 
determinateth" the effect. Mill, eschewing all men 
tion of necessity, would say, "Their sum causes the 
effect"; meaning, "they are the set of antecedents, 

have struck. OH J af..tllcuiphJlQspp]iicaljocabukr^the superfLuaus,ex- 
pressipns, can, ^M^MJj^ti must, power, possiFUtty^necfsiit^ This can 
celling of~terms alone differentiates the "uniformist" from the 
"necessarian," John Stuart Mill from Thomas Hobbes. Under this 
caveat we must read the phrase, "plurality of causes," where it__ 
j OjxjjjS-Jn-M444-V wri tinge; nofr-that ono-aH the samr f:ftrcLcauld 
fojjc)\\^jwjiollj_f rom each of many causes, butjhat like eft ccts^have 
followed from many causes ; whence the inadmissibllity oFthe~K 1 -ir&. 
arKurncnt From effect to caJHsCj. r~subloin this note because I wish to 
"sliovv how little ultimate difference there is between Hobbes and 
the modern thinkers with whom I am about to compare him. 
* Logic, bk in, chap, v, 3. 



THOMAS HOBBES 13 

positive and negative, upon which the consequent 
invariably follows without further condition." 

For moral causation let us revert to our example of 
a man being tempted to strike a bargain, advantageous 
but unjust. Suppose he yields. Let us sift out and dis 
tinguish cause and condition in that free act. The_cjiuse 
of the volition is the man _himsgjfLHi^U<JJlo.Qtjier _ 
tljmg besides, causes the volition,full and free. But he 
js not .the. cqjise of thg initial complacency, or me ori 
ginal mrpulse to do wrong/That complacency resulted^ 
injiini jiecessarily and inevitably from the news which 
heheard^supervening upon his previous habits of mind. 
But, upon refle&ioji,.. the objedL^C^his complacency 
proves to be not all that he_could jjisljJChfi - m ere_ 
morallur^ilud.^ 

T,hjs inadequacy of the obje.ft..tg_Jijs_thmking rnmd 
leaves hirn free: he may either _sust_ain_the complacency 
into which he finds himself spontaneously thrown,_and 
so sustaining it pour himself out and identify himself 
with the objec5l,^Lhe_mayJ.e.t_LL42ass. If he so sustains 
his spontaneous complacency, he freely wills, and that 
under the following conditions, remote and proximate. 
The proximate condition is the impulsive complacency 
which, like the wash of a steamer, went along with the 
idea of the bargain, when that idea, uninvited, entered 
his mind. The facts reported to him, and his antece 
dent views of a good bargain, were the remote condi 
tions giving rise to the complacency. 



contentment in the same, in other jgords, the free act 
of his TwlII7 : ^s criargeabTe^n himself alone. He caused 



1 4 FREE WILL 

jt, he i did Jt^ Jhe [is answerable for it;, -he^and not his 
^circumstances. 

IV 

"The will itself, and each propension of a man du 
ring his deliberation, is as much necessitated, and de 
pends on a sufficient cause as anything else whatso 
ever." 

Hobbes, in another work, explains what he means 
by a "sufficient," or "entire," cause. 

"The aggregate of accidents in the agent or agents, 
requisite for the production of the effect, the effect 
being produced, is called the efficient cause thereof; 
and the aggregate of accidents in the patient, the effect 
being produced, is usually called the material cause. . . 
But the efficient and material causes are both but par 
tial causes, or parts of that cause, which in the next 
precedent article I called an entire cause. . . In what 
soever instant the cause is entire, in the same instant 
the effect is produced. For if it be not produced, some 
thing is still wanting which is requisite for the pro 
duction of it; and therefore the cause was not entire, 
as was supposed. And seeing a necessary cause is de 
fined to be that, which being supposed, the effect cannot 
but follow, this also may be collected, that whatsoever 
effect is produced at any time, the same is produced by 
a necessary cause. For whatsoever is produced, inas 
much as it is produced, had an entire cause, that is, 
had all those things, which being supposed, it cannot 
be understood but that the effect follows; that is, it had 
a necessary cause. And in the same manner it may be 
shown that whatsoever effects are hereafter to be pro 
duced shall have a necessary cause; so that all the effects 



THOMAS HOBBES 15 

that have been, or shall be produced, have their neces 
sity in things antecedent." 41 

Admitting that the aft of will " depends on a suffi 
cient cause," I deny that " it is as much necessitated 
as anything else whatsoever." I deny that "in whatso 
ever instant the cause is entire, in the same instant the 
effect is produced"; likewise that "whatsoever effect 
is produced at any time, the same is produced by a 
necessary cause." In short, I deny that a sufficient (or 
entire) cause and a necessary cause are the same. Every 
cause is in a certain sense entire; it is entire as a cause. 
Such entirety would still appertain to the sun, were 
there no planets to suffer the solar attraction. But that 
an entire and sufficient cause may work an actual effect, 
certain conditions are requisite. Hobbes takes an "en 
tire cause" to be an agent surrounded with the condi 
tions of action, for instance, a planet having a satellite 
within range. I say that the planet is an entire cause 
by itself, irrespectively of any satellite. But waiving 

* Cf. "The state of the whole universe at any instant we believe 
to be the consequence of its state at the previous instant; insomuch 
that one who knew all the agents which exist at the present mo 
ment, their collocation in space, and all their properties, in other 
words, the laws of their agency, could predicl the whole subsequent 
history of the universe, at least unless some new volition of a power 
capable of controlling the universe should supervene. And if any 
particular state of the entire universe could ever recur a second 
time, all subsequent states would return too, and history would, 
like a circulating decimal of many figures, periodically repeat itself: 

Jam rcdit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna. . . 
Alter crit turn Tiphys, et altera quae vehit Argo 
Deleftos heroas; erunt quoque altera bella, 
Atque itcrum ad Trojam magnus mittetur Achilles." 

--Mill, Logic, bk in, ch. v, 7. 



1 6 FREE WILL 

that definition, and allowing* entire and sufficient cause 
to mean a cause so conditioned that it may be fol 
lowed by its effect without further condition, or that, 
which being supposed, the effect can follow ; and fur 
thermore accepting Hobbes s definition of necessary 
cause as "that, which being supposed, the effect can 
not but follow"; still, I must protest against the equi 
valence of can follow and cannot but follow ; and, conse 
quently, I cannot allow that every sufficient cause in 
the Hobbesian sense of that term is at the same time 
a necessary cause. Every sufficient mechanical cause is 
necessary; but a mental cause may be sufficient and 
yet not necessary. How so ? Precisely by this, that 
matter is ruled wholly from without, but mind par 
tially from within. Matter is carried here and there, 
dependent on external causes and their collocation: 
whereas the liability of mind to be led captive by a 
foreign power stops short at the point where mind 
begins to think and to reflect, and thence to choose for 
itself. 

V 

" He who forces another to do a thing, and then 
punishes him for doing of the same, is unjust (accor 
ding to the common sense of mankind)." 

But GOD forces men to do things, and then punishes 
them for doing of the same (according to Thomas 
Hobbes). 

The odious conclusion that follows from these pre 
misses, Hobbes endeavours to shake off by making an 
equally odious exception to the major premiss. He 
would have the proposition, He who forces another 



THOMAS HOBBES 17 

to do a thing, and then punishes him for doing of the 
same, is unjust, not to hold good when GOD is the 
subject. Let us hear his own words: 

"The power of GOD alone without other helps is 
sufficient justification of any action He doth. That 
which men make amongst themselves here by parts 
and covenants, and call by the name of justice, and ac 
cording whereunto men are accounted and termed 
rightly just or unjust, is not that by which GOD al 
mighty s actions are to be measured or called just, no 
more than His counsels are to be measured by human 
wisdom. That which He does is made just by His 
doing it; just, 1 say, in Him, though not always just 
in us. . . Power irresistible justifies all actions, really 
and properly, in whomsoever it be found: less power 
does not, and because such power is in GOD only, He 
must needs be just in all actions. . . GOD cannot sin, 
because His doing a thing makes it just, and conse 
quently no sin; as also because whatsoever can sin is 
subject to another s law, which GOD is not. And there 
fore it is blasphemy to say GOD can sin; but to say 
that GOD can so order the world, as a sin may be 
necessarily caused thereby in a man, I do not see how 
it is any dishonour to Him." 

These words come well from the author of the 
Leviathan. In that work Hobbes maintains that jus 
tice does not belong to the nature of man otherwise 
than as a fruitless velleity; that in a world of mutual 
wrong-doing, where might is right, justice comes into 
being only by dint of a convention, which binds men 
to live in society, and employs the strength of society 
for the curbing of the natural predaceousness of indi- 

2 



i 8 FREE WILL 

viduals. But GOD, as He fears none, has no occasion 
for any such convention: consequently justice, such as 
obtains between man and man, has no analogue in the 
Hobbesian Deity, who, superior to all compacts, knows 
no justice but power, no right but might. 

" It is worthy of remark that the doubt whether 
words applied to GOD have their human signification 
is only felt when the words relate to His moral attri 
butes; it is never heard of in regard to His power. We 
are never told that GOD S omnipotence must not be 
supposed to mean an infinite degree of the power we 
know in man and nature, and that perhaps it does not 
mean that He is able to kill us, or consign us to eternal 
flames. The divine power is always interpreted in a com 
pletely human signification."* 

Words applied to GOD have not their mere human 
signification, as Mill here supposes, nor have they 
a signification quite unconnected with humanity, as 
Hobbes thought; but their signification in regard to 
GOD is analogous to their signification in regard to men. 
Man is a finite model of the infinite GOD: so far as he 
exists, he exists after the image of GOD: all his posi 
tive qualities reflect the Author of his being. As man 
to GOD, so stand man s ways to GOD S ways: they are 
not the same in kind, but the same in proportion, 
even as the being of the globe and the being of the 
globe s roundness are not homogeneous but analogous 
being. This view strikes a mean between the Epicurean 
high and dry deism, instanced by Hobbes, and the 
anthropomorphism into which Mill (loc. /.) appears 

* Mill s Examination of Sir W. Hamilton $ Philosophy, chap. vii. 



THOMAS HOBBES 19 

to fall. The issue i s admirably arbitrated by St Thomas 
Aquinas. But to understand him, we need to under 
stand the terms "univocal," "equivocal" and "analo 
gous." Mill shall explain them to us: 

"A name is * univocal, or applied univocally, with 
respect to all things of which it can be predicated in 
the same sense; it is equivocal, or applied equivocally, 
as respects those things of which it is predicated in 
different senses. . . . An equivocal or ambiguous word 
is not one name, but two names, accidentally coinci 
ding in sound; . . . one sound, appropriated to form 
two different words. An intermediate case is that of a 
name used Analogically or metaphorically ; that is, a 
name which is predicated of two things, not univocally 
or exactly in the same signification, but in significations 
somewhat similar, and which being derived one from 
the other, one of them may be considered the primary 
and the other a secondary signification. As when we 
speak of a brilliant light and a brilliant achievement." * 

Mill has explained "metaphorical analogy." There 
is also " analogy proper," which is the proportion that 
obtains between similar things of different grades of 
being. The analogy which St Thomas has to speak of 
is "analogy proper." f We are now prepared to give 
ear to St Thomas. 

" Difference in manner of being is a bar to the uni 
vocal application of the name Being. Now GOD S 
manner of being is different from that of any crea 
ture; for GOD is Being in His own right, a prero 
gative not attaching to any creature out of GOD. 
Hence being is by no means predicable univocally of 

* Logic, bk i, chap, ii, 8. 

t See Berkeley s {Minute Philosopher, iv, 20, 21. 



20 FREE WILL 

GOD and the creature; neither is any other predicate 
applied univocally to both. But some have said that 
there is no predicating anything even analogically of 
GOD and the creature; the predication common to the 
two is, they say, merely equivocal. That opinion, how 
ever, cannot be true; for in the pure equivocal use of 
terms a name is given to one thing without reference 
to another thing to which it is also given; whereas 
whatsoever things are said of GOD and of creatures are 
said of GOD with some reference to creatures, or of 
creatures with some reference to GOD. Besides, since 
all our knowledge of GOD is gathered from creatures, 
if there shall be no agreement betwixt the two except 
in name, we can know nothing of GOD but empty names 
with no realities underlying them. Therefore, we must 
say that nothing is predicable univocally of GOD and 
of the creature; nor yet are their common predicates 
predicated purely equivocally; but they are predicated 
analogously with reference of one to the other, as being 
is predicated analogously of substance and of quantity."* 

Man occupies a certain position relatively to his 
Creator, and other positions relatively to his fellow- 
men. What his Creator may do to him, that may he 
do to his fellows in an analogous case. If no analogous 
case can ever occur, then it is in vain our going about 
" to vindicate the ways of GOD to man." On that sup 
position we cannot even call GOD just, since He is not 
just with any proportion to a human standard. Were 
an officer to keep a soldier in enforced detention from 
parade, and then flog him for being away, the union 
of those two acls would argue injustice in the doer of 
them. Nor would the injustice be diminished, but rather 
* [ De Potentia Dei, q. vii, art. 7. 



THOMAS HOBBES 21 

increased, by the thing being done by the Commander- 
in-chief, by the king, nay, by an absolute monarch of 
the universe. Analogously, if my almighty Creator " so " 
ordered the world as a sin might be necessarily caused 
in me, and then punished me for that sin; certainly 
such a Creator would forfeit in my regard His title of 
just. * 

" Power irresistible justifies all aclions, really and pro 
perly." As properly might Hobbes have said the same 
of immensity or of eternity. The Eternal and Immense 
Almighty can do no wrong; but it is not His omni 
potence, any more than His eternity or immensity, 
that justifies what He does. He is peculiarly One GOD; 
and to speak of Him becomingly, we should have a 
name to express His perfections all in one. But that 
holy and awful name cannot dwell on mortal lips. The 
title which He takes in Exodus iii, 13, 14, "lam who 

* Hobbes On Liberty and Necessity must have been lying open 
before Mill, when he penned this celebrated outburst: "If, instead 
of the glad tidings that there exists a being in whom all the ex 
cellences which the highest human mind can conceive exist in a 
degree inconceivable to us, I am informed that the world is ruled 
by a being whose attributes are infinite, but what they are we can 
not learn, except that the highest human morality which we arc 
capable of conceiving does not sanction them; convince me of 
it, and I will bear my fate as I may. But when I am told that I 
must believe this, and at the same time call this being by the names 
which express and affirm the highest human morality, I say in plain 
terms that I will not. Whatever power such a being may have over 
me, there is one thing which he shall not do; he shall not compel me 
to worship him. I will call no being good, who is not what I mean 
when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures; and if such a 
being can sentence me to hell for not calling him so, to hell I will 
go" (Mill s Examination of Sir W. Hamilton i Philosophy, chap. vii). 
This vehement language may be pardoned for the badness of the 
theology which evoked it. 



22 FREE WILL 

am," would yield to prayerful study perhaps our ful 
lest attainable notion of what GOD is and can. But since 
our every conception of GOD is inadequate, we endea 
vour by many different conceptions to compensate for 
the inadequacy of each. Having realised as best we may 
what Supreme Being means, we next regard that Being 
as containing the fullness of all the perfections that are 
distinguishable in creatures: accordingly we call Him 
All-wise, All-good, going through the list of the divine 
attributes so far as we have had experience of copies of 
them in creation. Each of these attributes intimately 
involves the rest. None can be almighty who is not 
eternal, immense, and infinitely holy. Still the name 
of each attribute stands for that one attribute, not for 
the rest. By All-wise we do not mean Eternal: neither 
does Almighty mean All-holy. Therefore Hobbes did 
wrong to assert that GOD was holy by virtue of His 
omnipotence. True, GOD is infinite holiness, and GOD 
is infinite power: but we look at GOD in one way when 
we call Him holy, and in another way when we call 
Him almighty; which two ways being diverse and dis 
tinct, it is a falsehood in our mouths and with our con 
ceptions to say that GOD is holy because His power 
is irresistible. What we mean by power does not con 
stitute or involve what we mean by holiness. 

VI 

" The necessity of an action doth not make the 
laws that prohibit it unjust. . . No law can possibly 
be unjust, inasmuch as every man maketh, by his con 
sent, the law he is bound to keep. . . What necessary 
cause soever precede an action, yet if the action be for- 



THOMAS HOBBES 23 

bidden, he that doth it willingly may justly be punished. 
For instance, suppose the law on pain of death prohibit 
stealing, and that there be a man, who by the strength 
of temptation is necessitated to steal, and is thereupon 
put to death, does not this punishment deter others 
from theft? Is it not a cause that others steal not? Doth 
it not frame and make their wills to justice? To make 
the law is, therefore, to make a cause of justice, and to 
necessitate justice; and, consequently, it is no injustice 
to make such a law. The intention of the law is not to 
grieve the delinquent for that which is past and not to 
be undone, but to make him and others just that else 
would not be so, and respecteth not the evil act past, 
but the good to come. . . But you will say, how is it 
just to kill one man to amend another, if what were 
done were necessary? To this I answer, that men are 
justly killed, not for that their actions are not necessi 
tated, but because they are noxious. . . We destroy, 
without being unjust, all that is noxious, both beasts 
and men." 

This passage is marked by a lucidity and vigour 
truly admirable. It is a splendidly bold and a scienti 
fically accurate presentment of the philosophy of de- 
terminist punishment. My objections to that philoso 
phy I have set forth in Political and {Moral Essay s y in 
the essay on Morality without Free Will^ particularly 
pp. 253-259. My objections come to this, that while 
there is abundant ground on utilitarian principles for 
visiting with pain the offender who has unfortunately 
been determined to the injury of society, for the pain 
will readjust his determination, there is nevertheless 
no ground for visiting him with any moral disappro 
bation: you may call him names, significant of moral 



24 FREE WILL 

reproach, as stimulants corrective of his will, but in your 
heart you cannot reproach him, for what else could he 
have done? 

VII 

" If there be a necessity that an action shall be done, 
or that any effect shall be brought to pass, it does not 
therefore follow that there is nothing necessarily requi 
site as a means to bring it to pass; and therefore, when 
it is determined that one thing shall be chosen before 
another, it is determined also for what cause it shall so 
be chosen, which cause, for the most part, is delibera 
tion or consultation, and therefore consultation is not 
in vain." 

Hobbes signifies that the necessity of an action is a 
conditional necessity, dependent upon a certain state of 
mind going before. Hence he notes the unreasonable 
ness of withdrawing the condition and still looking for 
the action as a thing that must ensue. But the condi 
tion itself, he says, is supplied of necessity, following 
upon other antecedent conditions likewise necessary, 
and so up to some primitive collocation of circum 
stances, the parent egg, whence the phases of the uni 
verse, from yesterday to to-day, for ever, are perpe 
tually proceeding according to a law of mathematical 
rigour. With this vast concatenation of conditional ne 
cessities the acts of our will interlink. The conditions 
which inexorably determine those acts pre-existed cycles 
untold before our birth. The primitive nebula bore 
within its bosom the seeds which were, of sure neces 
sity, to develop into the doings of every agent that 
should populate the solar system, the shooting of me 
teors, the revolutions of planets, the spots on the sun, 



THOMAS HOBBES 25 

and the feelings, thoughts and volitions of men. Any 
bystander with an eye to see, and an intellect to com 
prehend, might have perused the universal history of 
the system, printed entire in that early primer. The 
thread of our lives was hackled and twisted ere our 
mothers conceived us. We rise too late in the parlia 
ment of the world to move any amendment. Our puny 
individualities may not stand between cause and effect. 
We are children, creatures of the arrangements that 
were before us: we are their slaves. Our function is to 
do their bidding and die. We exist in fulfilment of a 
destiny, whereof we hold in our hands neither the begin 
ning, middle, nor end. Each man s lot in life is designed 
and constructed for him; none is his own architect in 
that matter: though the expiring eloquence of the Ro 
man Chatham did protest to the contrary: Faber quisque 
mortalium fortune su<. Fortune to us is, not as the web 
to the spider, spun out of ourselves, but rather as the 
web to the fly, catching us in its meshes. Only, with less 
initiative than the fly, we do not wing our own flight 
into the entanglement; we are born there. Fortune s web 
is very old, hanging from the pillars of creation and co 
eval with them. Fortune s web is very broad: 

A covering net, that nor sinner nor saint 
Can scape from the circle of slavish constraint 
And captive woe complete.* 

Yes, and of captive joy, too; the house of feasting with 
the house of mourning is alike a house of bondage. 

On such a system it is idle for any man to question 
with his own soul what he means to do. What he must 

yEschylus, dgamemnon, 346. 



26 FREE WILL 

do is written even to the last detail. We need not use 
our own judgements: there is no seat for us at the 
council board where the march of our lives is planned. 
Circumstances may be relied upon to galvanise us, when 
the hour for action arrives. We shall be equal to the 
occasion, so far forth as the occasion shall raise us to 
its level. For if, as Hobbes confesses, the consultation, 
the necessary prelude to the action, is secured and can 
not fail, secured by a chain of antecedents reaching 
back to before the birth of the consultor, that person 
infallibly will find himself consulting and acting, if 
necessity will have him so; even as some day he will 
find himself dying, without any labour of his, thanks 
to the sure, steady thud of necessity battering cease 
lessly at the portal of animal life. Consultation, in this 
view, is not in vain; neither is digestion; but, to use a 
colloquial phrase, "it comes natural" to one to deli 
berate as to digest. 

Denial of the freedom of the will does not involve 
a renunciation of that freedom in practice. A man can 
not divest himself of a property so connatural. If GOD 
creates, we must be, and be of the specific nature that 
GOD specifies. The very neglect of freedom is an exer 
cise of liberty in us: it is the part of a free man playing 
the slave. Fatalism abounds in the East.* Philosophers 
further westward have taught necessarian doctrines, 
rigid as ever Sultan acquiesced in. But their specula 
tive fetters, a looser fit than the Grand Turk s, can be 
slipped off upon occasion, to permit of a scamper with 
free limbs after the butterflies of temporal profit. We 
* Cf. Palgrave s Arabia, vol. i, pp. 365-368. 



THOMAS HOBBES 27 

never witness the part of a necessarian played on Change, 
nor in the Houses of Parliament, nor in Westminster 
Hall. In the disabusing air of civil emulation our 
countrymen understand that success depends on the 
fight which men make to gain it; that fighting any fight, 
good or bad, comes, not of motives simply, but ulti 
mately and mainly of a man s own will and deliberate 
espousal of motives. 

Because in the affairs of this world necessarians ex 
hibit as much self-determination as their opponents, the 
denial of free will passes for an error, if it be an error, 
of pure theory, void of evil consequences to pure 
morals. Unfortunately, morality follows from theory, 
and varies with theory, far more closely than business 
does. The ends of business stare us in the face, money 
and manufactures, things of gross and palpable advan 
tage. But the ends of morality glimmer in the distance 
like stars calm and cold and high overhead. If we are 
Christian just men, we live by faith, which is the evi 
dence of things unseen. If, again, our justice be the 
justice of a heathen naturalism, still its mainsprings are 
abstract contemplations of the intellect, such as honour 
or the happiness of society, not objects of sense. The 
ends of business are attractive enough of themselves 
to rouse an Englishman to work with a will, necessa 
rian though he be. Not so the ends of morality in the 
case of the multitude of mankind, once they get to be 
lieve that they cannot help doing whatever they do. It 
is somewhat of a risk to guarantee any mortal s re 
maining a moral man far into the future; but a peculiar 
instability vexes his moral position, who writes himself 



28 FREE WILL 

down a log brandished in necessity s arms. The suspi 
cion that one is being tempted above one s strength 
must furnish a frightful lever to temptation. It is not 
a suspicion that a wise father would wish to awaken in 
his child. Yet, if the will is not free, the suspicion is 
too well-founded, all sins in that case being examples 
of men tempted above their strength. 

Hobbes so trembled in prospect of the pernicious 
construction to which his opinion was liable, that he 
wrote: " It is true that ill use might be made of it, and 
therefore your Lordship [the Marquis of Newcastle] 
and my Lord Bishop [Bramhall of Londonderry] ought, 
at my request, to keep private what I say here of it. 
And in conclusion I beseech your Lordship to commu 
nicate it only to my Lord Bishop." 

VIII 

"For praise and dispraise they depend not at all on 
the necessity of the action praised or dispraised. For 
what is it else to praise, but to say a thing is good? 
Good, I say, for me, or for some one else, or for the State 
and commonwealth. And what is it to say an action is 
good, but to say it is as I wish? or as another would 
have it, or according to the will of the State? that is to 
say, according to the law. Does my Lord think that 
no action can please me or him or the commonwealth 
that should proceed from necessity? Things may there 
fore be necessary and yet praiseworthy, as also necessary 
and yet dispraised, and neither of them both in vain, 
because praise and dispraise and likewise reward and 
punishment do by example make and conform the will 
to good and evil." 

To praise a thing is to pronounce it good in its kind. 



THOMAS HOBBES 29 

A thing is praised for having the excellence proper to 
its nature. Praise implies approval. The statement there 
fore is not a correct one, that to praise is to affirm a 
thing to be as I would wish. I may wish a being for 
private ends of my own to have not the excellence that 
it ought to have. The burglar wishes the lock of the 
safe to be ill-made; he wishes the servant of the house 
to be unfaithful. If lock and servant do yield to his tam 
pering, he is pleased, but finds it not in his heart to 
praise them. He despises them both, the one for a 
good-for-nothing manufacture, the other for a good- 
for-nothing man. 

Inanimate things are praised for their beauty or use 
fulness. Products of art are praised inasmuch as they 
answer the end for which man made them. Plants and 
brute beasts are praised for their full and perfect growth 
or promise of growth, according to their species. And 
for what is man praised? Man is praised for exhibiting 
in himself what belongs to the perfection of human 
nature. He is praised for stature, strength and beauty, 
for quickness of understanding, for talent to command. 
He is praised to a large extent for what nature in a 
particular case and circumstances have made him. But 
the praise of man stops not there. When it has been 
said of an individual that he is tall and handsome and 
intelligent, what is most to his praise or dispraise re 
mains still to be told. There is the question of conduct: 
whether he lives up to his nature as man behaving rea 
sonably or whether he is the slave of passion, the sport 
of the solicitation of the hour. On his conduct it depends 
whether or no we shall call him a praiseworthy man. 



30 FREE WILL 

A thing may be necessary and still praised. But the 
term praiseworthy is reserved for those actions alone 
which are commonly taken to be not necessary, the 
actions of the human will in the sphere of merit or duty. 
Praise is an approval that may be bestowed on any 
being or agency; but praiseworthiness is a title to what 
is called moral approbation. Praiseworthiness comes of 
acting up to the dictates of reason, to the counsels of 
generosity, to the requirements and capabilities of a 
moral nature. A moral nature has power within certain 
limits to make or mar itself. A brute nature is made 
or marred simply in accordance with primitive endow 
ment and supervening circumstances. In other words 
a moral nature is free. It does not grow by a physical 
and necessary course towards the perfection that be 
comes it. It tends thither by self-determined acts in 
keeping with a law of command, not of inevitable effect. 
A morally good being, then, is to a certain extent the 
cause and author of his own goodness; not so the 
nature, however admirable for beauty or fertile of pro 
fit, that simply is what it is, and does what it does, be 
cause it is made so to be and so to act. 

Hobbes insists on ignoring that special quality of 
praise which is bestowed on free agents, and is expres 
sive of the sentiment of moral approbation. According 
to him we praise a hero and a hurricane just alike, when 
bothhavedone the like workof discomfiting an enemy s 
Armada, except that we applaud the hero with a pru 
dential regard to the future, hoping to move him or 
others to repeat the performance when the emergency 
shall recur. But does not this intention to stimulate by 



THOMAS HOBBES 31 

praising come as an afterthought? Is not the first burst 
an outpouring of pure admiration and commendation, 
without respect to any recurring need. Is praise to be 
included under the sarcastic definition of gratitude, 
"a lively sense of future favours"? So it appears on 
Hobbes s showing. But Hobbes s philosophy is one 
continuous piece of sarcasm on humanity. 

IX 

"Piety consisteth only in two things: one, that we 
honour GOD in our hearts, which is that we think as 
highly of His power as we can . . . the other is that 
we signify that honour and esteem by our words and 
actions. . . He therefore that thinketh that all things 
proceed from GOD S eternal will, and consequently are 
necessary, does he not think GOD omnipotent? . . . 
Again, he that thinketh so, is he not more apt by ex 
ternal acts and words to acknowledge it?" 

Piety, called in Greek iV/3ar<, "due reverence," 
in Latin, pietas, "filial duty," was defined by the Pla- 
tonists "justice towards the gods"; by the Stoics, "the 
science of serving the gods."* The notion of piety ac 
cording to these definitions depends upon the notion 
of GOD. GOD is to be reverenced as His dignity merits: 
He must have that duty paid Him which His pater 
nity demands: He must have that justice done Him 
to which His authority has a right: He must receive 
service in that quality and in that degree in which He 
is master. To people who know little about GOD, His 
power is His most striking attribute; even as, placed 
at a distance from a noble edifice, the chief feature we 

* Trench s Nf:v Testament Synonyms, xlviii. 



32 FREE WILL 

appreciate about it is size. After the power of GOD, 
His justice becomes known; and so, after the appre 
ciation of size, there follows, on a nearer view, the 
appreciation of proportion. Not till we stand on the 
threshold of the building, does our eye kindle to the 
sight of its delicate carving and variegated splendours; 
even so GOD must draw us very near to Himself ere 
we can enter into and reciprocate His tenderness and 
love. The tyro in piety is slavishly afraid of GOD: the 
proficient in piety tempers this slavish fear with hope: 
the expert in piety fears GOD with a filial fear, he hopes 
in GOD, he does more, he loves Him. The timid tyro 
hardly looks upon GOD as a person: the sentiment of 
fear is fully entertainable of things. The trustful pro 
ficient awaits the sentence to be passed upon him by 
the person of his "just Judge." But to the loving ex 
pert GOD is a father; and the father is the first of per 
sons in his child s eyes. There is no thorough piety 
towards a GOD of mere power, nor even towards a 
GOD of mere justice; the adequate object of piety is 
a GOD of justice and power blended into love. But 
Hobbes s Deity is not good: He is nothing more than 
omnipotent. Else why should piety consist in this, that 
we think as highly of His power as we can, to the ex 
clusion of His goodness ? 

Opening the eleventh chapter of Isaias, which an 
nounces the coming of a GOD far other than him 
whom necessarians imagine, we read: "And the spirit 
of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom 
and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, 
the spirit of knowledge and piety; and there shall fill 



THOMAS HOBBES 33 

him the spirit of the fear of the LORD." From this pas 
sage the Church has drawn her enumeration of the 
seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. St Thomas Aquinas 
defines the phrase "gift of the Holy Ghost," and 
shows in what sense piety falls under the definition. 
"The gifts of the Holy Ghost," he says, "are certain 
habitual dispositions of the soul, whereby it is readily 
susceptible of the impulses of the Holy Spirit. Among 
other things, the Holy Spirit moves us to this, to che 
rish a filial affection towards GOD, according to the 
text (Rom. viii, 15), Ye have received the adoption 
of sons, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. And since to 
piety it properly belongs to pay duty and reverence 
to a father, it follows that the piety whereby we pay 
duty and reverence to GOD is a gift of the Holy 
Ghost."* This piety of filial affection is the kind in 
culcated by St Peter: "Provide, in the exercise of your 
faith, virtue ; and in your virtue, knowledge ; and in your 
knowledge, self-restraint; and in your self-restraint, pa 
tient endurance; and in your patient endurance, piety; 
and in your piety, brotherly love; and in your brotherly 
love, charity." f On the clause, "in your patient endu 
rance, piety," Dean Alford has the paraphrase: "Let it 
not be mere brute stoical endurance, but united with 
Goo-fearing and GoD-trusting." J He quotes another 
commentator s remark, that, in this company of virtues, 
we see "faith leading the band, love closing it." But 
brute stoical endurance, little better than that of the 
devils, who "believe and tremble," is all the piety, 

* 23. 2x, q. cxxi. t 2 Pet. i, 5, 6, 7. 
i A t ti? Testament for English Reader i. James ii, 19. 

3 



34 FREE WILL 

all the "justice towards God" rendered by Thomas 
Hobbes, all the "science of serving God" that a neces 
sarian knows. 

X 

"For repentance, which is nothing else but a glad 
returning into the right way, after the grief of being 
out of the way; though the cause that made him go 
astray were necessary, yet there is no reason why he 
should not grieve; and again, though the cause why 
he returned into the way were necessary, there re 
mained still the causes of joy. So that the necessity of 
the actions taketh away neither of those parts of re 
pentance, grief for the error and joy for returning." 

By a rule of logic, a definition should not be latius 
definite^ wider than and including more things than 
the thing defined. Hobbes s definition of repentance 
as "a glad returning into the right way after the grief 
of being out of the way" sins against this rule. It 
would apply to the case of a traveller lost on a moor, 
and afterwards finding the track again, a glad recovery 
which none but Thomas Hobbes would exalt into re 
pentance. Surely the tears of Mary Magdalen flowed 
from some other source. 

There is nothing moral in Hobbes s philosophy. 

XI 

"Though prayer be none of the causes that move 
GOD S will, His will being unchangeable, yet since we 
find in GOD S word, He will not give His blessings 
but to those that ask, the motive of prayer is the same. 
Prayer is the gift of GOD no less than the blessing, and 
the prayer is decreed together in the same decree where 
in the blessing is decreed. . . Prayer . . . though it 



THOMAS HOBBES 35 

precede the particular thing we ask, yet is not a cause 
or means of it, but a signification that we expect no 
thing but from GOD. . . The end of prayer, as of thanks 
giving, is not to move but to honour GOD Almighty, 
in acknowledging that what we ask can be effected by 
Him only." 

Rather, the prayer is foreseen in the decree wherein 
the blessing is decreed. Thus GOD, foreseeing from 
eternity that certain creatures will pray for fine weather 
on a certain day, has passed His eternal fiat that that 
day shall be fine. The prayer is indeed the gift of GOD 
no less than the blessing. " Every good gift and every 
perfect gift is from above."* Prayer being a better and 
more perfect gift than sunshine, it would be absurd to 
pretend that we owed sunshine to GOD and not prayer. 
But our free will co-operates with the grace of prayer 
which GOD gives us; while the sun shines upon us willy 
nilly. Prayer is the better gift, precisely because, invi 
ting our co-operation, it becomes more our own. 

I may inquire why GOD will not give His blessings 
but to those that ask. I gather from Hobbes that it is 
because the Almighty wishes to receive from us the 
honour of an acknowledgement that the beneficial re 
sult which we desire can be effected by Him only. He 
wishes us to confess our thorough dependence on Him. 
That, I think, is truly the reason of the institution of 
prayer. But it supposes the confession on our part to 
be free. It is no honour to a lord to seize his vassal s 
hand and trace therewith, by stronger contraction ot 
muscle, a signature to a declaration of allegiance. It 
* James i, 17. 



36 FREE WILL 

may be honourable to have persons under one in a state 
of constrained subjection; but there can be no access 
of honour from compelling them, without possibility 
of denial, to declare that they are in constraint. GOD 
has creatures who serve Him perforce, the whole of 
irrational nature. But He does not expect confession 
from them. It is true that the Psalmist has, " Confess 
to the LORD, ye heavens "; * and, " The heavens are 
telling the glory of GoD."f These sayings mean that 
the heavens tell the glory of GOD to man, and incite 
him to confess to the LORD. Man is the high priest of 
the universe, gathering up the unconscious worship of 
the rest of creation to present it consciously to the Crea 
tor. Another verse is, " Let all thy works confess to 
thee, O LoRD."J If all, then also Thy reprobate works, 
the devils and spirits of the damned. These confess of 
necessity and against their will. But there is reason for 
constraint in their case. GOD is wringing from them 
perforce that homage which they refused Him while 
they were free. He has bound them physically, for that 
they broke through moral bonds. They would not 
serve, and He has made them slave. Hobbes insists 
that the tribute exacted from hell is the type and model 
of whatsoever honour ascends to GOD from any of His 
creatures. I cannot but think such a doctrine an ex 
ceeding insult to the Most High. 

XII 

"The nature of sin consisteth in this, that the 
action done proceed from our will and be against the 
law. . . Now when I say that the action was necessary, 

* Ps. cxxxv, 26. t Ps. xviii, i. I Ps. cxliv, 10. 



THOMAS HOBBES 37 

I do not say that it was done against the will of the 
doer, but with his will, and necessarily." 

The nature of sin consisteth in this, that the action 
done proceed from our will with advertence, and be 
against the known law. An action done from impulse, 
a hasty blow struck in passion, has an excuse from sin. 
So far as it was sinful, the agent knew what he was 
doing. Perhaps a series of sinful yieldings to impulse 
had formed in him a habit of yielding. That habit it 
was, of his own formation, which communicated to the 
passionate impulse the force which he did not with 
stand. He was to blame for the strength of an evil ten 
dency which had been strengthened by himself. Impul 
sive action is less pardonable in an adult than in a child, 
who has not lived long enough to form habits whether 
of licence or self-restraint. Again, to be sinful, an action 
must be against a known law. Against a law unknown, 
which there was no ground to surmise and no obliga 
tion to ascertain, there can lie no sin. In cases where 
the law is imperfectly known, breach of law is excused 
to the extent of the transgressor s invincible ignorance. 
Hence a higher intelligence sins more guiltily than a 
lower one. The higher intelligence is both better con 
scious of its own act, and better appreciative of the 
sacred character of the obligation which it violates. 

Hobbes speaks of action done with the will of the 
doer and necessarily. I am far from replying that this 
phrase involves a contradiction. An action may well be 
voluntary and necessary at the same time. Such may 
be some of our actions in this life, in early years espe 
cially. The act of loving GOD, in the saints who see 



38 FREE WILL 

Him face to face, is voluntary and necessary. When 
ever an object under advertence perfectly satisfies our 
longing, we will that object and we cannot but will it. 
If our understanding is mean, mean are our longings, 
and our will is necessitated to acquiesce in mean things. 
Exalt the understanding, and you amplify the desires 
and elevate the will to greater liberty. But no will is 
free in reference to all possible objects. There must be 
some point of satiety to the mind s cravings: free will 
reigns up to that point, and no further. To an infant 
a toy marks the point of satiety; to a seraph, GOD. The 
infant fain must love the toy; the seraph fain must love 
GOD. Adult man on earth occupies an intermediate 
position. The toy satisfies him not thoroughly, nor does 
any worldly thing afford him thorough satisfaction. 
Even GOD is at present an inadequate object to his 
desire, owing to his imperfect realisation of the good 
ness of GOD. Therefore man remains free to choose 
between good and evil of the moral order. In that 
crisis, what GOD expects of him is that he shall fix his 
thought and his affection on the excellence of the divine 
law, which reason indicates, and turn away his mind 
from the sensible advantages of breaking that law, and 
will not to taste those sweets. Thus is man on trial in 
this world. 

But it would be no fair trial, if, when a man knew 
an action to be against the divine will, still do it he 
must, with full consent and without ability to refuse; 
if, in other words, a sinful pleasure, adverted to as sin 
ful, gave complete and unmixed satisfaction to human 
nature, and left man nothing to desire, nothing else to 



THOMAS HOBBES 39 

do but to sin. In that case, either there is no sin, or 
the author of the sin is the author of the necessity by 
which it is committed. 

Hobbes rejects the Apocrypha: I bring therefore 
the son of Sirach, not as an authority to condemn, but 
as a sage to warn him: 

Say not, It is owing to the LORD I fell away: for what 
he hateth, thou shalt not do. 

Say not, he led me astray: for he hath no use for a sinful 
man. 

The LORD hateth all abomination, and it is not lovely to 
them that fear him. 

He made man from the beginning, and turned him loose 
in the power of his own deliberation. 

If thou choosest, thou wilt keep the commandments, and 
give proof of thy resolution. 

He has set before thee fire and water: to whichever thou 
choosest thou wilt stretch forth thine hand. 

Before men is life and death, and whichsoever one resolves 
upon shall be given to him. 

For great is the wisdom of the LORD, strong in principality, 
and seeing all things. 

And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and lie shall 
take cognisance of every work of man. 

And he did not command anyone to be impious, and gave 
not permission to anyone to sin.* 

XIII 

"A man is then only said to be compelled, when 
fear makes him willing ... as when a man willingly 
throws his goods into the sea to save himself. . . Thus 
all men that do Anything for love, or revenge, or lust, 
are free from compulsion, and yet their actions may be 
as necessary as those that are done by compulsion; for 
sometimes other passions work as forcibly as fear." 
*Ecclus xv, 1 1-20, from the Greek. 



40 FREE WILL 

Aristotle* examines the question whether a man 
who willingly throws his goods into the sea to save 
himself can be said to do so under compulsion. And 
he concludes that, denning a compulsory act to be 
one "the origination of which is from without, the 
party compelled contributing nothing," such an act 
of jettison cannot be pronounced compulsory. What 
is compulsory is the owner s distress between two 
alternatives, the abandonment of his goods on the one 
side, and the likelihood of perishing with them on the 
other. There he stands, as we say, " between the devil 
and the deep sea." His liberty is circumscribed be 
tween two terms, neither of which he likes. Yet is he 
free to attach himself to either term, to choose either 
the certainty of a loss of fortune or the imminent risk 
of a loss of life. Loss or risk, one or other he must 
choose, but he will choose either of them freely. The 
jettison would be then compulsory, if the captain were 
to lock the merchant up in the cabin while his wares 
went by the board without his concurrence. 

The Christians, whom the pagans threatened with 
death if they refused incense to Jove, furnish another 
case in point. They could not help having to choose 
between death and apostasy, but they could help on 
which side their choice lay. For that reason we honour 
the martyrs, while CHRIST has judged the guilt of them 
that denied Him. It would be improper to call their 
denial compulsory. 

At the same time, acts of that kind, to which men 
consent rather than- brave a threat, frequently go by 




THOMAS HOBBES 41 

the name of compulsory in common parlance. We say 
that a traveller was compelled to fee the brigand who 
clapped a pistol to his ear. I admit that there is this 
usage of speech. Neither do I deny that sometimes 
other passions work as forcibly as fear. I conceive a 
father, whose child has been murdered, being at least 
as strongly prompted to pursue the murderer for re 
venge as to fly from him for fear. Yet if he fled, he 
would be spoken of as having been compelled to retire; 
whereas there would be no mention of compulsion if 
he went in pursuit. That is true. Hobbes thence infers 
that a deed of vengeance is as much necessitated as a 
deed done by compulsion of fear. I may let pass the 
inference, for I deny that a deed done by compulsion 
of fear is necessitated. If my opponent, taking a loose 
phrase for a strict one, retorts that compulsion im 
plies necessity, I straiten his lines and bring him back 
to the strictness of the Aristotelian definition: "An 
act is compulsory, the origination of which is from 
without, the party compelled contributing nothing." 
An act done from fear is not compulsory in that sense: 
for the frightened party contributes his own volition 
to remove himself from what he fears. 

Yet there is ever some truth at the bottom of popu 
lar sayings about matters of morality. Not moral phi 
losophers alone are moralists: all men are so. No trust 
worthy professor of moral philosophy will brand popular 
phrases on that subject as the mere expression of popu 
lar errors. Why then do the people in spite of Aristotle 
persist in calling those volitions compulsory which are 
elicited under intimidation ? I hope I can show why. 



42 FREE WILL 

In the first place I remark that a person, acting under 
the spell of any passion whatsoever, is by no means 
the free and authentic agent that he is when his act is 
passionless. The more impassioned, the less free, at 
the moment. For the freedom of the will is derived 
through the intellect; it is the truth that makes us 
free: but passion dazes the intellect and paints the 
truth in false colours. The passion that infringes a 
man s freedom may be the foster-child of his own 
folly: then his past conduct is to blame for the strength 
of temptation at the present hour. It is no excuse for 
a guilty amour that the offender was over head and 
ears in love: he plunged himself into the quagmire. 
Forbidden love tempted, and he accepted by repeated 
acts, till he converted a passing excitement into a chron 
ic disorder. There are some words of Aristotle that 
go near to describing this case: "The sick man can 
not with a wish be well again; yet ... he is voluntarily 
ill, because he has produced his sickness by living in- 
temperately and disregarding his physicians. There 
was a time then when he might have helped being ill; 
but, now he has let himself go, he cannot any longer 
recover himself; just as he who has let a stone out of 
his hand cannot recall it, and yet it rested with him to 
aim and throw it, because the origination was in his 
power."* 

But the passion of fear is unlike other passions. 

Love, ambition, sloth are home-products ; but fear 

has rather the character of an importation. What a man 

shall love rests pretty much with himself: what he shall 

* Nic. Eth. in, vii, 14. 



THOMAS HOBBES 43 

fear, not so much. Tearfulness is that key of our nature 
on which our neighbour s ringers find it easiest to play 
without our leave. I may make gifts to a man, and he 
will not love me; do him wrong, and he will not hate 
me; but let me threaten his life, and it will be very 
hard if he does not fear me. Fear-prompted actions 
then are less liable than the rest of impassioned actions 
to be involved in the guilt of prior free acts that fos 
tered the growth of the passion: for fear depends less 
upon the free acts of the subject than do the other 
passions. Free will has ordinarily more to say to anger 
and love than to fear. This, I conceive, is the reason 
why actions done under intimidation are popularly 
palliated under the name of compulsory. But they are 
not wholly excused by the people; nor are they proved 
absolute necessities. 

XIV 

"One heat may be more intensive than another, 
but not one liberty than another: he that can do what 
he will hath all liberty possible, and he that cannot 
hath none at all." 

In a noun that is made to signify the mere attain 
ing or falling short of a certain measure, there is no 
room for less and more. In an entrance examination 
for a school, college or profession, some candidates 
pass and some fail. All who pass gain entrance equally; 
all who fail are equally excluded. We say, "more nearly 
equal," or "more hopelessly lost"; but not "more 
equal, ""more dead," "more lost." Participles properly 
so-called admit no comparative: nor do nouns substan 
tive that denote a species. Julius Caesar was not more a 



44 FREE WILL 

man than the meanest of the mean crew who murdered 
him; though he was more of a man perhaps than all 
of them together, and had stuff in him to furnish forth 
a dozen Brutuses. 

Freedom, in Hobbes s definition, is ability to do as 
one likes. A fair specimen of this sort of freedom is 
found in that institution which Hobbes delighted to 
extol, the absolute monarch. One or other of three 
things: either the monarch alone of all the inhabitants 
of the realm is in any sense free; or the monarch is 
more free than his subjects; or monarch and subjects 
are equally free. The last proposition means that, under 
a despotic government, every man does as he likes. 
Probably that is what Hobbes would have said. He 
would have proceeded to explain, as in many of his 
writings,* how the will of the subject coincides with 
the will of the monarch by virtue of the compact where 
by the people have made over their rights to one per 
petual depositary. There is no use arguing the point. 
If anyone is pleased to say that a Russian goes to Si 
beria because he likes to go wherever the Tsar may 
send him, we can afford to let that whimsical thinker 
enjoy his own humour without contradiction. Nor need 
we stay to contend with any maintainer of the position 
that freedom of any kind, and consequently free will, 
is the exclusive prerogative of absolute monarchs, 
though that paradox might not unreasonably be built 
upon the Hobbesian saying that he who cannot do what 
he will hath no liberty at all. The remaining alternative 
is to allow that the will of an absolute monarch is more 
*e.g., De Ch itate, cap. xxi, DC Libertate Civium, 



THOMAS HOBBES 45 

free, by Hobbes s definition of freedom, than the wills 
of his subjects, more free, because more powerful. 

Nevertheless, free will is not to be confounded with 
the power to carry one s will into deed. A beggar s will 
may be as free as a king s. It may be more so. An act 
of the will is free, when the agent might have abstained 
from eliciting it, the circumstances relevant to the act 
remaining the same. A free act is not unconditioned, 
but it does not follow from the conditions as a matter 
of course. Now, if no more be here meant by freedom 
than the bare absence of necessity, and the mere fact 
that the agent could absolutely have done otherwise, it 
is clear that free will admits of no degrees, as neither does 
life: an animal must be either alive or dead. But there 
are degrees of fullness and intensity of life, and similarly 
of freedom. We do not say that he who can break prison 
by a great effort is as much at liberty as the man who 
can walk out by an open door. We commonly call that 
freedom greater which is more readily available and can 
be exercised more easily. At that rate, there are degrees 
in free will. An act is more free, then, in proportion as 
the agent could have done otherwise with greater faci 
lity. An act is more free the less it is conditioned. No 
free act, however, is wholly independent of conditions. 
So, to take an example, in the case of a strong propen 
sity to drink, whether hereditary or self-acquired, if 
the propensity stops short of mania, the victim of it is 
not so entirely victim as wholly to cease to be a free 
agent, and yet, in common parlance, he is much less 
free than the well-bred and hitherto virtuous lady who 
is taking the first steps on the way of sipping. 



46 FREE WILL 

Agents free and necessitated may be classified as fol 
lows in point of freedom and the reverse: 

1. GOD. 

2. Rational creatures, in final blessedness, having the 
sight of GOD.* 

3. Rational creatures, still in the way of trial. 

4. Irrational feeling creatures. 

5. Insensible creatures. 

Numbers 4 and 5 are necessitated in all their opera 
tions; number 3, in their chiefest operations, are free; 
numbers i and 2, in their chiefest operations, are ne 
cessitated. This may be briefly explained. An insensible 
thing, having no consciousness whatever, has no light 
to guide it to a choice; and, where there is no light, 
there is no liberty. A thing of this sort is not wholly 
passive, else it would be void of existence, but the ac 
tive powers which it has are blind, and are led to their 
end by an external Being, the intelligent Creator of the 
insensible thing. A creature with senses, but without 
intellect and reason, has no reflex consciousness, no 
faculty of advertence to its own being and condition 
as such. Therefore, it acts always either on native im 
pulse or by virtue of a training received from without. 
An agent like this is moved by springs of feeling, more 
or less complicated, which are not at its own command: 
it is not free. Rational creatures, on their trial in this 
world, have an intellect that informs them of unlimi 
ted good; they have a rational appetite that craves 

* It is neither essential to my purpose, nor pleasantly accessory to 
it, to discuss the state of the will of" rational creatures in statu termini, 
having no vision of GOD. 



THOMAS HOBBES 47 

for unlimited satisfaction; they have a power of adver 
tence to the spontaneous affection of their will, embra 
cing a satisfaction not unlimited and consequently not 
adequate to their desire; they have then the liberty 
either of continuing in the embrace of that satisfaction 
or of desisting from it. Rational creatures, in final 
blessedness, are endowed with the same boundless de 
sire and the same advertence, but they have reached 
their destination in the apprehension of a good, the re 
cognised satisfaction of their immense desire: they are 
not free to fall away from that Good, which is GOD 
seen. Lastly, GOD Himself eternally beholds Himself, 
eternally delights in Himself, eternally looks with com 
placence inward upon Himself as the worthy object of 
His own satisfaction: GOD is not free not to love Him 
self. 

The agents in class number 3, however, may some 
times be necessitated, while numbers I and 2 are upon 
many points free. We often will without reflection: we 
may occasionally encounter a satisfaction which fully, 
or almost fully, meets our desire for the moment: our 
volitions, thereupon, are not free or are hardly free. 
Again GOD, and the blessed spirits who see His face, 
find some good in created objects. The world is "very 
good"; but, since GOD discerns in Himself an infinity 
of better goodness, He was not necessitated to create 
this world. The saints and angels have their favourites 
on earth; yet, as none of us is good enough to enrap 
ture a seraph, we may be sure that, when the angels 
love us, as Spenser says they do,* they love us freely. 
* Faerie Queene, book 11, canto viii. 



48 FREE WILL 

Of freedom there is but one species, intelligent free 
dom: but we may distinguish intelligent necessity 
and brute necessity. A person lies under an intelligent 
necessity when, adverting to a complacency that fully 
satisfies his intellectual nature, he perseveres in that act 
of complacency. He cannot do otherwise than perse 
vere: he knows better than to do otherwise than per 
severe. An agent that is fain to act without advertence 
lies under a brute necessity. This agent does things 
because it knows no better. An agent intelligently free, 
upon adverting to a complacency that does not fully 
satisfy his intellectual nature, may or may not perse 
vere in the act of complacency. He knows of better 
things, but he may acquiesce to do that which now 
suggests itself as good.* 

Numbers 4 and 5 (irrational creatures generally) lie 
wholly under the dominion of brute necessity, the 
avay/ci) of the Greek philosopher. Numbers i and 2 
(Goo and the spirits which see His face) exemplify in 
the main an intelligent necessity of divine love, but 
they have also their freedom. Number 3 (rational crea 
tures in the way of trial) rise in their best moments to 
the exercise of an intelligent freedom, whereby they 
merit reward or punishment. They walk in the border 
country between intelligent necessity and brute neces 
sity. One or other of those realms shall be their home 
for eternity, according as they accomplish well or ill 
their transient course on earth. 

It might, therefore, be expected, and experience 

* It may be urged, But he does not know of better things to do 
under the circumstances. This difficulty will be faced in dealing 
with Locke. 



THOMAS HOBBES 49 

proves the fact, that good men, yet in their flesh, ap 
proach to the state of angels, and bad men to the state 
of devils. I mean that the good, having GOD ever be 
fore their eyes, although in a glass, darkly, discern 
Him clearer and clearer by degrees, and proportion 
ally diminish the possibility of their sinning; while the 
bad, who live away from GOD, grow more and more 
incapable of virtue. Thus good and bad alike abridge 
their freedom. True; but how do they abridge it? By 
exercising it. 

This is how St Bernard speaks of the confirmed and 
hardened sinner: "That the soul, which could fall of 
itself, is unable further to rise of itself, proceeds from 
the will, which, enfeebled and prostrated by a spoilt and 
spoiling love of the corruptible body, is unequal to the 
undertaking of the love of justice. Thus, by a prodigy 
of strange perversity, the will, changed for the worse 
by sin, makes unto itself a necessity, in such a way 
that neither the necessity, being voluntary, can excuse 
the will, nor the will, being allured, can exclude the 
necessity. For this necessity is in a manner voluntary. 
It is a kind of courteous violence, overwhelmingly 
soothing and soothingly overwhelming; of which the 
guilty will, having once consented to sin, can neither 
shake itself free by its own sole effort, nor anywise ex 
cuse itself by reason."* This is a very sad necessity, 
as sad as the contrary necessity is happy. Between the 

* In Cantica, sermo Ixxxi. Cf. St Thomas, Contra Gentiles, b. in, 
ch. clxi. The necessity here described is not physical, but moral: 
it implies, not utter impossibility, but enormous difficulty, which 
may, however, be surmounted by the grace of GOD. This is what the 
Saint means by saying that the fallen soul cannot rise of itself. 

4 



50 FREE WILL 

two we are striking out our course, away from this, 
towards that. The strokes that advance us are our own 
free acts. However, strike and act as we may, we are 
not to reckon on reaching any sure establishment in 
well-doing short of the grave. Nor, unless we choose 
to be very wicked, shall we achieve anything at all like 
confirmation in sin. The sea of freedom flows wide 
between these two opposite coasts. But the bottom 
shelves towards one and the other. The righteous in 
this world are drawing near to tread the firm earth of 
paradise, the land of immutable intelligent good; and 
the unrighteous are drifting on to the shore of that 
land of darkness and misery, where no order, but 
brute necessity of evil reigns. 

XV 

" The will follows the last opinion or judgement 
immediately preceding the action, concerning whether 
it be good to do it not. . . In that sense, the last dic 
tate of the understanding does necessitate the action, 
though not as the whole cause, yet as the last cause, as 
the last feather necessitates the breaking of a horse s 
back." 

The last opinion or judgement immediately prece 
ding the action, concerning whether it be good to do it 
or not, is technically termed, "the last practical judge 
ment." It is an old dispute in the schools, whether or 
no volition be determined by the last practical judge 
ment; concerning which controversy three positions 
may be taken, none of them satisfactory: 

i. Either the last practical judgement, which is sup 
posed to determine the volition, is itself determined by 



THOMAS HOBBES 51 

something else going before, so that we get an unbroken 
chain of necessary sequences, and this is Hobbes s 
view here expressed; or the practical judgement, which 
determines the subsequent volition, is itself a free act; 
thus the will is free, not immediately in itself, but 
mediately, through the judgement on which it is neces 
sarily conditioned; so that, instead of "free will," it 
would be more appropriate to speak of "free judge 
ment," freedom being the immediate attribute, not of 
the will, but of the understanding. 

2. Every judgement, in other than self-evident mat 
ter, involves a volition : you must " make up your mind " 
to judge, which means that your will must bring your 
understanding to act. Such a judgement, in scholastic 
phrase, is elicited by intellect, but commanded by will. 
Then, if every volition is determined by the last practical 
judgement, we have a regressus in infinitum^ that same 
practical judgement being (usually) itself ruled by a vo 
lition. I say usually : where it is not so, the judgement 
is necessitated by the irrefragable evidence of the matter. 

3. If, to escape these difficulties, you identify the 
last practical judgement with the volition to do the 
thing under deliberation, then the practical judgement 
determines itself; and the judgement being an act of 
intellect, the volition wherewith it is identified is an 
act of intellect also: where then remains the difference 
between intellect and will? 

These three positions, with the perplexities which 
they involve, are all abolished by a distinction between 
a spontaneous practical judgement, which is the form 
which every practical judgement assumes to begin with, 



52 FREE WILL 

and a practical judgement ratified and accepted by the 
will) that is, a voluntary practical judgement, to which 
form not all practical judgements arrive. Upon this 
distinction I reply, in Thomist style, ad i m , ad 2 m , 
ad 3 ". 

Ad \ m . The practical judgement in its spontaneous 
stage does not determine the ensuing volition, except 
in a qualified sense presently to be explained. The 
voluntary practical judgement assumes its voluntary 
character consequently upon a volition,which, therefore, 
it does not determine. As an intellectual activity, the 
voluntary practical judgement is the matter of a free 
act, a thing freely commanded. 

Adi m . Not every judgement is determined by a 
volition. As the argument allows, judgement in self- 
evident matter is not so determined. Self-evident means 
evident upon full inspection. But other matters, which are 
not evident when fully inspected, still present a prima 
facie appearance, sufficient to determine a spontaneous 
judgement, or what we call "an impression at first blush 
of the thing." This spontaneous judgement is not com 
manded by will, nor does it necessitate any subsequent 
volition, but it is matter for volition to go upon. The 
regressus could be urged against him only who was 
foolish enough to say that every volition is determined 
by a previous voluntary practical judgement. 

Ad^ m . The spontaneous practical judgement clearly 
is not the volition to act accordingly, as such judge 
ment is antecedent to all volition. When the resolve 
to act is taken, that spontaneous judgement is raised to 
the rank of a voluntary judgement. As it is in the in- 



THOMAS HOBBES 53 

tellect, however, it remains the matter of a volition; 
it is not the volition itself. 

My own view is as follows. Every practical judge 
ment begins in a form in which it is spontaneous and 
necessary. This spontaneous form is "valid," as canon 
ists would say, i.e., it is a real judgement, but it is not 
"firm," i.e., it is liable to fail in securing approval 
from the will upon advertence, and so to pass away 
unauthorised and ineffectual. Yet if the will approve 
any practical judgement, it can for the nonce approve 
none other than the spontaneous judgement that is in 
possession, though it need not approve that: this 
measure of determinism is to be admitted. The last 
spontaneous practical judgement thus determines the 
will in this sense, that the will for the time being can 
not go counter to that judgement in whatever it sanc 
tions, as the traveller for the time being cannot take 
any train but that which is at the platform. And as the 
traveller always travels by the last train that draws up 
at the platform, by getting in and moving off and so 
seeing no more trains arrive; so the assent of the will, 
converting the spontaneous into the voluntary practical 
judgement, is always in accordance with the last prac 
tical judgement: for the adoption of one definite course 
of conduct leaves no room for approval of any other 
course. 

XVI 

" As soon as I can conceive eternity to be an indi 
visible point, or anything but an everlasting succes 
sion, I will renounce all that I have written on this 
subject [i.e., about the best way to reconcile contin- 
gence and liberty with the prescience and the decrees 



54 FREE WILL 

of God]. I know St Thomas Aquinas calls eternity, 
nunc stans, an ever-abiding now; which is easy enough 
to say, but though I fain would, yet I could never con 
ceive it; they that can are more happy than I." 

Any who share Hobbes s difficulty in conceiving the 
nunc stans may be referred to the eleventh book of St 
Augustine s Confessions, I here advance two proposi 
tions, countenanced by the Saint. First, that eternity 
is not an everlasting succession; and, secondly, that 
the very fact of succession evidences an everlasting now. 

A succession is a series of changes. GOD does not 
change. Yet He is eternal. GOD S eternity therefore is 
not an everlasting succession. 

There is an inverse relation between concentration 
of mind and sense of succession. The more the atten 
tion is fixed, the less advertence is given to the lapse 
of time, and vice versa. There is a well-known legend 
of a monk who chancing in the forest to light upon a 
bird, the song of which marvellously won his ear, 
stopped out all day, as he imagined, listening to the 
angelic songster, for such it was, and in the evening, 
returning to his monastery, found himself the lone 
remainder of a bygone generation, other men having 
reckoned a century what he counted one day. This, 
perhaps, is rather a tale of what would be than of 
what was. But, legend apart, who has not proved the 
unnoticed flight of hours over an interesting occupa 
tion? The mathematician, the poet, the saint lose all 
count of time; he in his calculation, he in his reverie, 
he in his prayer. But for the keen demands of appetite 
we might get becalmed for years, thinking of a favour- 



THOMAS HOBBES 55 

ite hobby, and awake, like Rip Van Winkle, from 
his protracted sleep, wondering how old we were. On 
the other hand, that day seems very long into which 
a variety of incidents has been crowded. Schoolboys 
sometimes remark what a length to look back upon 
their holidays appear, and that when they have enjoyed 
them keenly. The reason is, that holidays are a series of 
alternations of circumstances in striking contrast with 
the monotony of school-life. Each day of the vacation 
paints itself on new canvas: at school to-day does but 
deepen the picture of yesterday. The story of holidays 
is written out fair from leaf to leaf in an album. The 
story ot school-days descends to memory on a palimp 
sest. When we say that a sailor has seen more life than 
a recluse of the same age, we mean that the sailor has 
felt more changes. In pain the tread of time is exceed 
ing slow. This at first sight appears at variance with 
my theory. The sufferer apparently is confined to one 
thought, his pain. But I reply that the one thought of 
a creature in pain is pregnant with many thoughts. 
He seeks relief this way and that, and has no rest in 
his search. New trial and new failure, the one inces 
santly giving place to the other, make up the wrig 
gling thing, the worm that never dies while the pain 
endures.* In pleasure also hours may seem long, but 
only in pleasure of the exciting kind, which makes the 
heart flutter and the thoughts fly wild. That is the 
pleasure of astonishment and expectation, rather than 
of fruition and content. There is a deeper and calmer 

* The Greek word for anxiety, ;up<>va, was derived by the old 
etymologists from /uept w, I divide, because, as Terence says, curce 
dfaersum trahunt. 



56 FREE WILL 

happiness where the heart is at rest. Of that type will 
be the eternal bliss of the saints. Face to face with the 
Object of their beatitude, and absorbed in the contem 
plation of the same, they will take even less note of 
time than the hermit in the legend: the everlasting 
years will roll on, measured by the motion of matter; 
but the thought, life and existence of the elect will 
remain a point, a nunc stans^ an ever-abiding now, in 
the vision of GOD.* 

To the same purpose St Augustine writes: "It has 
seemed to me that time is nothing but a lengthening 
out of what I know not; but I should be surprised if 

*The relativity of time to the thinking mind is brought out in 
the following extract from Newman s Dream ofGerontius. The soul 
just departed wonders at not being immediately confronted with 
its Judge. The Guardian Angel accounts for the delay: 

For spirits and men by different standards mete 

The less and greater in the flow of time. 

By sun and moon, primeval ordinances, 

By stars which rise and set harmoniously, 

By the recurring seasons and the swing, 

This way and that, of the suspended rod, 

Precise and punctual, men divide their hours, 

Equal, continuous, for their common use. 

Not so with us in th immaterial world; 

But intervals in their succession 

Are measured by the living thought alone, 

And grow or wane with its intensity. 

And time is not a common property; 

But what is long is short, and swift is slow, 

And near is distant, as received and grasped 

By this mind and by that; and every one 

Is standard of his own chronology; 

And memory lacks its natural resting points 

Of years and centuries and periods. 

It is thy very energy of thought 

Which keeps thcc from thy GOD. 



THOMAS HOBBES 57 

it were not a lengthening out of the mind itself."* 
"In thee, my mind, I measure periods of time. . . 
In thee, 1 say, the impression which passing things 
make upon thee endures even after they are past. What 
I measure is that present impression, not the things 
which have passed to cause it. That is what I measure 
when I measure periods of time. Therefore the periods 
of time are either that or nothing."f The holy doctor 
remarks that the mind fixed on GOD is "not distended 
but intent. " The mind in that case is not in time, if 
time is "a distension of the mind." 

If the spirits who contemplate GOD are unmindful 
of succession, because they experience no change, much 
more will GOD Himself be changeless and without suc 
cession in His knowledge. Immutability enters into the 
essential concept of Deity. GOD is a self-existent Being. 
The selfr-existent cannot be material: matter without 
mind to support it is, in these days, a demonstrated 
absurdity. The Deity, therefore, is intelligent. And if 
intelligent, He knows Himself. Likewise He is the 
fountain of all possible existence. For possible exis 
tences are possible contingences, and the contingent 
must originate from the necessary, that is, from the 
self-existent, which is GOD alone. Were there two self- 
existents, there would be two orders of possibility, two 
regions of intellect, two truths. Since GOD is the intel 
ligent origin of whatever can exist, He knows Himself 
and all things adlual and possible in Himself. His 
knowledge, being thus infinite, must be unchanging: a 
change would be the introduction of a limit. GOD S 

* Con/, xi, c. xxvi. f Ibid. c. xxvii. I c. xxix. 



58 FREE WILL 

mind, therefore, never changes. But, as we saw before, 
to a mind without change there is no time. Therefore 
there is no time to GOD. Yet GOD is eternal, as Hobbes 
confesses. Therefore the eternity of GOD is not an ever 
lasting succession.* 

Nay, succession would be impossible without some 
being that was not successive. Let us consider a human 
being running his course year by year. He is alwaysgrow- 
ing older : he is always the same person : nay, he could not 

* " // alone in correct parlance belongs to the eternal Essence : 
was and shall be are expressions proper for creation that passes in 
time: for past and future are two states of transition, while that 
which is ever unswervingly the selfsame is like to become neither 
older nor younger by time, nor ever to have been created, nor to 
be now a creature, nor destined to be hereafter; and in a word it 
stoops not to undergo any of the alterations which creation has 
attached to the things that fleet before sense." Plato, Tim<rus 
3 8a. 

"In the beginning, O LORD, thou hast laid the foundations 
of the earth, and the works of thine hands are the heavens: they 
shall perish, but thou remainest, and they all shall grow old like a 
garment: and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be 
changed; but thou, O LORD, art the selfsame, and thy years shall 
not fail." Ps. ci, 25-27. 

" Brethren, do not our years daily fail, and stand not still at all ? 
For past years are not now, and future years are not yet. Now the 
former have failed, and the latter, that are coming, are coming to 
fail. In this one day then, brethren, lo, our present speech is in an 
instant. The hours gone by are past, the hours to come are not yet 
come; and when they are come, they too will pass and fail. What 
are the years that do not fail, but those that stand still ? If, then, 
there the years stand still, the said years that stand still are one 
year, and the said one year that stands still is one day: which said 
one day has neither sunrise nor sunset, nor begins from yesterday, 
nor is cut off from to-morrow, but it stands always still, that one 
day. And you call that day what you will. If you will, it is years : 
if you will, it is a day. Whatever you think it, all the same, it 
stands still." St Augustine on Ps. cxxi. 



THOMAS HOBBES 59 

grow older if he did not remain the same person.* And 
he could not remain the same person, were there not 
a GOD, ever in every respect maintaining him in his 
personal identity. Succession implies permanence, vari 
ables imply a constant. Laying our hands on a friend s 
shoulder we say, < This is he. But this is he only for 
this instant : it is an inadequate view of him : in his full 
amplitude he is a being of many past instants linked on 
to endless futurities. The man is the subject of all his 
biography. Such is the meaning of personal identity. 
Though the man changes, it is always he who changes: 
the entire sum of changes are the changes of one per 
son. There is an unchangeable element in man, by vir 
tue of which he continues the same man. I am not 
arguing with the atheist: I suppose the reason of man s 
existence from moment to moment to be because GOD 
causes and wills that existence continually. Now a con 
stant effect, and man in his person and spiritual sub- 
sistency is a constant effect, can be ascribed only to a 
cause that does not change. Changeable causes by their 
continuedactionproducechangeableeffects.If GOD were 
changeable, there would be nothing unchangeable in 
man, or anywhere in nature. Man would be a different 
person day by day: or rather there would be no per 
sonality in man at all, nor any substantial being in crea 
tion. As in man there is permanence under succession, 
so in GOD there is permanence without succession. 
The Oriental emblem of eternity was a serpent with 

* The impossibility of saying that anything changes if absolutely 
everything is always changing, in other words, the impossibility 
of any Becoming (ytVeo-tc;) if there be no Being (ovaia) anywhere, 
is well argued by Plato, 77r<*-/V//, 1810183!?. 



60 FREE WILL 

its tail in its mouth, forming a circle. Instead of a circle 
for the emblem I would propose a sphere, of radius 
infinite. At the centre of the sphere is GOD, seeing in 
Himself with one look the whole compass of possible 
creations, represented by great circles traceable on the 
sphere. A few great circles, aclually traced there by His 
hand, represent actual creatures. GOD sees the whole 
circle round at once, not however as a point, but as 
a circle. And this illustration meets an objection, which 
has been put as follows: "A man has not the qualities 
which he had some years ago, but other qualities ; he 
had not then the qualities he has now. If any one sees 
all these qualities existing together, which are not toge 
ther, he does not see them more correclly, but less 
correctly."* GOD does not see qualities existing toge 
ther which are not together, but He sees together the 
entire succession of qualities coming one after another. 
I refer the writer to his own remark, a few pages later: 
"Nothing is completely itself now, nor in a limited time: 
it needs everlasting time for that; for every monad is 
a focus of infinity."! The "now" he speaks of is the 
how of the creature, and in that sense the remark is 
just: but in the standing "now" of the Creator, in 
GOD S eternal vision, everything completely is. GOD 
does not progress with the world s progress, He is ever 
beforehand with it. The vicissitudes of the creature cast 
no shadow on Him who is the pure light of perfecl 
Knowledge burning from the fullness of Being. 
There are philosophers who deny all permanent exis- 

*The Hon. Roden Noel in Contemporary R^viev for June, 1872, 
p. 94. t Ibid. p. 99. 



THOMAS HOBBES 61 

tence, inclusive of that which I call personal identity. 
They agree with Heraclitus that the universe is mere 
yti ffftc, or becoming, without any subtratum of oiVi a, 
or being.* They say that I am conscious of mind in 
myself as a series of my own states of consciousness; 
that I think of other minds only in terms derived from 
my own; that mind, therefore, means to me a series of 
conscious states. This argues the impossibility of my 
conceiving any originating mind as first cause of the 
universe. "How is it possible for me to conceive an 
originating mind which I must represent to myself as 
a single series of states of consciousness, working the 

* " The principal feature in the conception of being is rest, fixed 
ness. Now the opposite of this is the principal feature in the con 
ception of becoming. It is unrest, unfixedness. A thing never rests at 
all in any of the changing states into which it is thrown. It is in the 
state and out of it in a shorter time than any calculus can measure. In 
faft the universe and all that it contains are undergoing a continuous 
change in which there is no pause; and therefore since pause or rest 
is necessary to the conception of being, the universe cannot be said 
to be in a state of being or fixedness, but in a continually fluxional 
condition, to be a process, a becoming, that is, something always 
changing, and no one of its changes enduring or stopping during any 
appreciable interval of time. If the change could be arrested for a 
single instant, that would yield a moment of what might properly 
be called being; but inasmuch as no change can be so arrested, the 
universe is a continual creation, a continually varying process, a 
becoming" Ferricr s Lcftures on Greek Philosophy, Heraclitus, 10. 
Thus, as the professor goes on to exemplify, the velocity of a falling 
body is "always becoming," for it is "always changing." It has no 
" certain constant velocity for the smallest conceivable time." In the 
"roseate hues" of a "gorgeous sunset," "before any one colour 
has had time to be that colour, it has melted into another colour"; 
and " you never, even for the shortest time that can be named or 
conceived, see any abiding colour, any colour which really i>." 
According to Heraclitus there is no more permanence about sub 
stances and persons than about the rate of a falling stone or the 
tints of a sunset; all things are in a flux and nothing endures. 



62 FREE WILL 

infinitely multiplied sets of changes simultaneously 
going on in worlds too numerous to count, dispersed 
through a space that baffles imagination?"* How 
indeed, if really I be myself nothing but a flux of states 
of consciousness? 

But it is not only GOD, His eternity and existence, 
that vanish under the analysis of Heraclitus; we and 
the objects of our experience equally disappear. We are 
always becoming older. But if nothing is permanent in us, 
it is not we that become older: the term we is inept. We 
do not become anything, and, according to Heraclitus, 
we are not anything. There is an end of us; an end also 
of what we experience, for nothingness can experience 
nothing. So one might improve upon the Heraclitean 
formula, and instead of "all things are in a flux " (TTIIVTO. 
pi) read "all things have vanished" (irdvTa. E/O/OH), or 
with Napoleon flying from Waterloo, Tout est perdu. 

Such is the evil end to which a philosophy comes 
which has made a bad start. The starting point of philo 
sophy, and indeed of thought, is the fact of conscious 
ness, I am. Thence our thought flies to beings distinct 
from ourselves, and to a being of beings, which is GOD, 
Speculative thinkers have dwelt upon the notion of being 
to the undue neglect of the I who am. They have 
ignored their own personality, and the personality of 
their Creator, to glorify an abstraction. Then the ab 
straction has been discovered to be an abstraction, and 
flung aside accordingly, without concern for its founda- 

* Herbert Spencer in Contemporary Review for June, 1 872, p. 151. 
A series of states of consciousness could not work the universe; but 
such a series is not GOD. See St Thomas, Summa contra Gentiles, i, 
ch. liv. 



THOMAS HOBBES 63 

tion in f;ict. Being has yielded to becoming. But the 
forgotten ego cries out against the usurpation both of 
beingand becoming. Heracliteans are ever talkingabout 
themselves, and thereby giving the lie to their own im 
personal teachings. When will these philosophers retrace 
their steps and start afresh from the practice of the 
Delphic counsel, "Know thyself"? Man s self is a noble 
object to study for its own sake; yet not for that sake 
would the counsel be worthy to be inscribed on a tem 
ple. An inscription fit for a holy place should contain 
a revelation of GOD. "Know thyself "contains that reve 
lation: it induces knowledge of GOD. Psychology 
forms the groundwork of natural theology. 

XVII 

" Liberty is the absence of all the impediments to 
action that are not contained in the nature and intrin- 
sical quality of the agent; as, for example, the water is 
said to descend freely, or to have liberty to descend by 
the channel of the river, because there is no impedi 
ment that way, but not across, because the banks are 
impediments. And though the water cannot ascend, yet 
men never say it wants the liberty to ascend, but the 
faculty or power, because the impediment is in the nature 
of the water and intrinsical. So also we say, he that is 
tied wants the liberty to go, because the impediment 
is not in him, but in his bands; whereas we say not so 
of him that is sick or lame, because the impediment is 
in himself." 

Free will goes further than this. "The nature and 
intrinsical quality of the agent" determines his spon 
taneous attitude to any motive that is applied to him: 
it does not determine him to identity himself with that 



64 FREE WILL 

motive upon advertence, and make it his own by con 
sent and acceptance. He so consents, if he does con 
sent, that under the same collocation of motives, with 
the same character and antecedents, and under the same 
spontaneously determined attitude of will, he might still 
have held back his consent and not made up his mind 
to anything. The alternative for the moment, I observe 
once more, is not between consent and positive rejec 
tion: that would be "liberty of contrariety," and free 
will does not go so far. The alternative is between con 
sent and the mere negative attitude of a mind not yet 
made up; between volition x and zero of volition: that 
is properly called "liberty of contradiction," and in 
"liberty of contradiction" human free will essentially 
consists. Evidently, this is more than "liberty from 
constraint," which is the utmost liberty that Hobbes 
and other determinists concede. Some of them are 
pleased to call it "self-determination," but their " self- 
determination" is not free will. These "self-determi- 
nists" are as good determinists, and as true necessa 
rians, as Thomas Hobbes himself, only less outspoken. 
Metaphorically, we say that the water flows freely in 
a river when it appears to flow according to its own 
choice, seeking its level as man seeks his good. We 
say that an untethered mare is free to run away, be 
cause she is left to her own proclivities. In a word, we 
call all those things free which are allowed to behave 
according to their natures. What then? Does it follow 
that a London citizen is not free in any higher sense 
than that in which a horse at grass, or the water of the 
Thames, is free? Hardly, unless it appear that the water 



THOMAS HOBBES 65 

and the horse are man s natural equals. But if huma 
nity rises superior over bestiality and water-power, it 
may be expected that the citizen, following his nature, 
shall be free in one way; and Bucephalus and the 
Thames, following their respective natures, shall be 
free in their own way, but not in his. According to 
Hobbes, they are all free in the same way. He sapi- 
ently explains how the river is free, and concludes that 
man can have no other freedom. 

Man s nature is neither purely material, nor purely 
animal, nor purely intellectual, but a compound of the 
three. A material nature moves whither it is drawn or 
thrust without feeling the motion, particle supplanting 
particle by mere material laws: an animal nature makes 
for pleasurable feelings and avoids painful feelings, real 
or imaginary; it is ruled by those feelings as a needle 
by a magnet. Various functions of man s organic life 
are discharged by animal appliances, when higher direc 
tive powers are in abeyance. An intellectual nature 
essentially knows itself. It is ruled by perfect good, 
according to the highest conception which it has framed 
of good. When man reflects what he is about, he occu 
pies an intellectual position. Finding himself realising 
what is to him a thoroughly adequate and satisfactory 
good, he must will that object. But finding a good in 
adequate and unsatisfactory, he may hold back his 
volition. It is not in any nature to be ruled by what 
fails to content it. The swine devours its acorns per 
force, for it has no sense of better things, and the acorns 
yield perforce to be crunched by the swine, for they 
have no sense at all. But man takes his food freely: he 

5 



66 FREE WILL 

has visions of what he prefers to meat and drink. An 
anomaly here appears to obtain that, while brute matter 
and brute beasts are guided in their behaviour by ade 
quate objects, man alone is left to act upon inadequate 
grounds. But we must remember that man, too, has 
his adequate Object, only out of reach for the present 
life. 

XVIII 

"I conceive that nothing taketh beginning from 
itself, but from the action of some other immediate 
agent without itself; and that therefore, when first a 
man hath an appetite or will to something, to which 
immediately before he had no appetite nor will, the 
cause of his will is not the will itself, but something 
else not in his own disposing." 

The meaning here is that all change is produced, 
not by the subject of the change, but by some being 
external to the subject. The assertion is true, and borne 
out by enumeration of instances. Thus an element of 
matter is moved, not by any self-moving agency, for 
it is inert, but by the agency of another element. And 
man s mind, it seems to me, never directly induces 
upon itself a modification entirely new. I agree that, 
"when first a man hath an appetite or will to some 
thing, to which immediately before he had no appetite 
nor will, the cause of his will [in that first stage of 
volition] is not the will itself, but something else not 
in his own disposing." What I have denominated 
"spontaneous complacency," results in the mind with 
out the person s authorship: it arises either through a 
sensation, as when one catches sight of a beautiful ob 
ject; or through an association, as when the [pre- 



THOMAS HOBBES 67 

established connexion of thoughts brings up the idea 
of the destruction of an enemy. Such a complacency 
in me is not mine: I have neither summoned nor 
sanctioned it, although I may be to some extent re 
sponsible for its coming, inasmuch as my previous acts, 
or my present negligence, may have facilitated its 
access to me. I can exercise no act properly my own, 
no act, that is to say, of free will, without an antece 
dent act which is not properly my own, namely, an 
act of spontaneous complacency. For a free volition is 
a sustaining of a complacency spontaneously arisen, 
after advertence to the insufficiency of the same. And 
this distinction, between the spontaneous and the re 
flex act of the will, annuls Hobbes s conclusion here 
drawn, "that voluntary actions have all of them neces 
sary causes"; for spontaneous volitions are traceable 
to necessary causes, but reflex volitions ordinarily 
are not. 

XIX 

" I hold that to be a sufficient cause, to which no 
thing is wanting that is needful to the producing of 
the effect. The same also is a necessary cause. For if 
it be possible that a sufficient cause shall not bring 
forth the effect, then there wanteth somewhat which 
was needful to the producing of it, and so the cause 
was not sufficient. . . That ordinary definition of a free 
agent, namely, that a free agent is that which, when 
all things are present which are needful to produce 
the effect, can nevertheless not produce it, implies a 
contradiction that is nonsense; being as much as to say 
the cause may be sufficient, that is to say necessary, 
and yet the effect shall not follow. . . That there is no 
such thing as an agent, which when all things requi- 



68 FREE WILL 

site to action are present, can nevertheless forbear to 
produce it; or, which is all one, that there is no such 
thing as freedom from necessity, is easily inferred from 
that which hath been before alleged. For if it be an 
agent, it can work; and if it work, there is nothing 
wanting of what is requisite to produce the action, 
and consequently the cause of the action is sufficient; 
and if sufficient, then also necessary, as hath been 
proved before." 

Wherever there is a cause sufficient, in the Hob- 
besian sense of the term sufficient^ for a necessary effect, 
there the cause is necessary and the effect will neces 
sarily ensue. All effects of matter acting upon matter 
are necessary effects. Wherever then material sub 
stances are found in collocation, there is necessarily 
wrought a determination towards movement, the effect 
of the action of matter on matter. But given a cause 
insufficient for a necessary effect, not even Hobbes 
would say that that cause was necessary, or that the 
effect was necessarily to follow. Now, in the human 
mind, a motion of complacency may possibly arise, 
which, being adverted to, will be necessarily sustained. 
That is the case where the object appears to the sub 
ject in the light of a perfect good. There we see a 
necessary volition complete. But suppose the object of 
the complacency, when examined, appears to be not 
without its drawbacks. Such an object is not a sufficient 
cause of a necessary volition. Man s will is above be 
ing necessitated by what does not satisfy his desire. 
Consequently no necessary volition will follow the ap 
prehension of that object. If a volition does follow, it 
will be not necessitated but free. There is sufficient 






THOMAS HOBBES 69 

cause for a free volition, but not sufficient cause for a 
necessary volition. 

At that rate, Hobbes would contend, no volition 
could follow at all. I am unable to agree with him there. 
The object of man s will is good. Perfect good he must 
love; imperfect good he may love. His necessary ad 
hesion to the former does not cut him off from freely 
adhering to the latter. It is natural for him to love 
good in any shape, although not with a necessary love, 
except the good which he apprehends to be perfect. 
Let us contemplate the case of a mother with her child. 
Supremely dear he is to her heart. For his sake she 
loves what is connected with him, his playmates, his 
playthings, clothes, pictures and familiar haunts, all 
that is like him, and all that he is fond of. I have little 
doubt that her love for her son is necessitated. She 
cannot choose but love him. She cannot possibly will 
to do him an injury. But the things which she loves 
for his sake she regards with an inferior affection. She 
might find it in her heart to burn his likeness, though 
she could not allow the sun s rays to beat fierce on 
his head. The necessity under which she lies of loving 
him leads to a secondary love for what relates to him, 
which secondary affection, however, does not possess 
the cogency wherewith the primary love is endowed. 

We must not forget that a free volition is not an 
entirely new move in the mind. Some motion towards 
the thing willed there was already, and that of neces 
sity: the conscious acceptance and confirmation of that 
motion transforms it from necessary to free. Now I 
maintain as a notorious fact of consciousness, upon 



70 FREE WILL 

which no necessarian has ever thrown a doubt, that we 
are able advertently to make up our minds to an arrange 
ment wherewith we are not altogether pleased. We 
subscribe our Le Roi le veut, though intelligence, the 
the king within us, conceives, and desire yearns after, 
a better measure than that. We then will without a 
sufficient cause for a necessary volition. There ^anteth 
somewhat which was needful to the production of it. There 
fore no necessary volition is produced; but the volition, 
which is produced, is free. 

XX 

"It is necessary that to-morrow it shall rain or 
not rain. If therefore it be not necessary it shall rain, 
it is necessary it shall not rain, otherwise there is no 
necessity that the proposition, it shall rain or not rain, 
should be true. I know there be some that say, it may 
necessarily be true that one of the two shall come to 
pass, but not singly, that it shall rain, or that it shall 
not rain, which is as much as to say, one of them is 
necessary, yet neither of them is necessary; and there 
fore to seem to avoid that absurdity, they make a dis 
tinction, that neither of them is true determinate, but 
indeterminate; which distinction either signifies no 
more but this, one of them is true, but we know not 
which, and so the necessity remains, though we know 
it not; or if the meaning of the distinction be not that, 
it hath no meaning, and they might as well have said, 
one of them is true tityrice, but neither of them tupa- 
tulice"* 

The handling this argument is simply an exercise 

in formal logic. If we consider what manner of asser- 

*Tityre, tu patuli recubans sub tegmine fagi. 1)irgi/, Eclogue I. 



THOMAS HOBBES 71 

tion a disjunctive proposition makes, we shall easily 
perceive that no proof of necessarianism can be ex 
tracted out of the law of excluded middle, that every 
thing necessarily either is or is not. Since the operations 
of inanimate nature, so far as that nature is concerned, 
are acknowledged on all hands to be necessary, I will 
alter the example to this: "It is necessary that to 
morrow Philip shall sin or not sin." If Hobbes can 
show that sin in Philip, supposed to be alive and in 
the exercise of his faculties to-morrow, is either a ne 
cessity or an impossibility, he has gained the cause. 

Logically examined, the disjunctive proposition, 
"To-morrow Philip must either sin or not sin," is 
tantamount to these two: (i) the assertion of Philip s 
sinning to-morrow necessarily involves the denial of 
his not sinning; (2) the denial of Philip s not sinning 
to-morrow necessarily involves the assertion of his 
sinning. 

If Hobbes, out of these two propositions, can 
gather the conclusion that "if it be not necessary 
Philip shall sin, it is necessary he shall not sin," he is 
welcome to his victory. But he does not gather that 
conclusion out of those two propositions, but out of 
the two following, into which he virtually analyses the 
disjunctive, "To-morrow, Philip must either sin or 
not sin": (i) the assertion of Philip s sinning to-mor 
row involves the denial of his not necessarily sinning; 
(2) the denial of Philip s sinning to-morrow involves 
the assertion of his necessarily not sinning. 

No logician can admit that this second pair of 
propositions contain formally the same statements as 



72 FREE WILL 

the first pair. Nor will the adequacy of the first ana 
lysis be questioned by any one acquainted with formal 
logic. Therefore the second analysis is incorrect, and 
the attempt of Hobbes to draw a proof of necessari- 
anism out of the formal law of excluded middle is a 
pronounced failure. 

The two members of a disjunctive proposition are 
like two balls flung into the air, with a string connec 
ting them. Each ball is fastened, and yet both balls are 
loose. Each member of the disjunction is declared ne 
cessary, hypothetically upon the denial of the other; yet 
neither member is vouched for as being tethered with 
an absolute necessity. This must be, if that is not; and 
that, if this is not. We do not say: This must be, simply: 
nor, That must be, simply. The disjunctive form is no 
evidence for or against the absolute necessity of either 
member of the disjunction. Hobbes s argument is per 
haps confuted more plainly by this similitude of the 
two balls tied together, than by the distinction of de 
terminate and indeterminate, or even ffynfiand tupatulice. 



JOHN LOCKE 



JOHN LOCKE 

An Essay concerning Human Understanding 
Book II, Chap. XXL Of Power 

I 

far as a man has power to think or not to think, 
to move or not to move, according to the prefer 
ence or direction of his own mind, so far is a man 
free." 

It is characteristic of Locke as a writer to refuse to 
acknowledge difficulties. Where other philosophers 
check their pace, and tread warily, and whisper in 
one another s ear that they are drawing nigh to a very 
grave question, Locke flies forward with a bound, and 
overpowers the question, and beats it down low, and 
lays the answer open, as he declares, to any ordinary 
understanding. This procedure has its advantages. 
Difficulties in metaphysics, as in government, in trade 
or in travel, are often creatures of the imagination. 
The remedy in such cases is to act and cease to ima 
gine. Still there are difficulties, real difficulties, on 
every line. To ignore them is not to surmount them, 
but to bequeath them to posterity. When Locke sought 
to silence the strife about the real essences of substan 
ces by proclaiming them unknowable, he left it for 
Berkeley and Hume in the next generation to ask 
whether substance had any real essence at all. So the 
award just pronounced by him on the question of free 



76 FREE WILL 

will is plain and intelligible; but I fear it is also irrele 
vant and superficial, and quite fails to touch the point at 
issue. The strife between necessarians and libertarians 
precisely concerns that preference or direction of his 
own mind, which Locke assumes. How does the mind 
prefer thinking of a thing to not thinking of it ? How 
does the mind direct movement rather than rest ? Does 
it prefer or direct in such a way as that it could not 
possibly prefer or direct otherwise? This is the ques 
tion to which necessarians answer yes, and libertarians 
no; and which Locke s definition of freedom touches 
not at all. 

In proof of the insufficiency of the definition, let me 
show that it applies to cases of the most rigid necessity. 
A clock is in no sense a free agent. Yet a clock might 
be called free when it has power to move or not to 
move, according to the preference and direction of its 
own workings. It would then be free from all extra 
neous, all "anti-horological" interference, such as that 
of a child gluing the fingers to the dial or playing with 
the weights. Locke, I know, speaks, not of the work 
ings of a machine, but of the direction of a man s own 
mind; and he refuses, rightly enough, to recognise any 
liberty away from mind. But is not this the point in 
dispute, whether our minds are wound up like clocks, 
to prefer and direct us to certain motions, or whether, 
they have a command over themselves, placed in them 
selves alone, which machines have not ? If the latter is 
the true idea of freedom, Locke s definition fails to 
convey it. 



JOHN LOCKE 77 

II 

" Wherever any performance or forbearance are not 
equally in a man s power; wherever doing or not doing 
will not follow equally upon the preference of his mind 
directing it, there he is not free, though perhaps the 
action may be voluntary. . . Suppose a man to be car 
ried, whilst fast asleep, into a room, where is a person 
he longs to see and speak with, and be there locked 
fast in, beyond his power to get out; he awakes, and 
is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which 
he stays willingly in, i.e., prefers his stay to going 
away. I ask, is not this stay voluntary? I think nobody 
will doubt it; and yet, being locked fast in, tis evident 
he is not at liberty not to stay; he has not freedom to 
be gone." 

Let me too cite an imaginary instance. Suppose a 
man s mark to be required to a paper in order to the 
perpetration of a fraud, and another seizes his hand, and 
by overpowering constraint traces with it the mark re 
quired; and the man whose hand is held, though he 
cannot help himself, makes the mark with a hearty good 
will. I ask, is not the man thus constrained a defrauder? 
I do not mean a defrauder before the law, for the law 
takes cognisance only of the outward act, which is here 
evidently constrained, but a defrauder in conscience and 
before heaven? I think nobody will doubt it; and yet, 
his hand being held, it is evident that he is not at liberty 
not to make the mark, he has not freedom to withhold 
it. How then is his action wrong, if he does it not 
freely? It is not so much the action as the act that is 
wrong. The physical action of marking the paper must 
be performed by him whether he will or no, and none 



78 FREE WILL 

can blame him for that his hand is forced; but the 
mental act by which he approves of the marking is an 
approval which he might have withheld, which he freely 
bestows, and for which GOD holds him culpable. The 
man who affixes his mark under such circumstances is 
at once a voluntary agent, and a free agent, and a guilty 
agent; voluntary, because he wills what he does; free, 
because he need not have willed it; and guilty, because 
he freely wills to do a fraudulent thing. 

Ill 

" If this be so, as I imagine it is, I leave it to be con 
sidered whether it may not help to put an end to that 
long agitated, and, I think, unreasonable because unin 
telligible question, viz., whether man s will be free or 
no. For if I mistake not, it follows, from what I have 
said, that the question itself is altogether improper; and 
it is as insignificant to ask whether man s will be free, 
as to ask whether his sleep be swift, or his virtue square; 
liberty being as little applicable to the will as swiftness 
of motion is to sleep, or squareness to virtue. Every one 
would laugh at the absurdity of sucha question as either 
of these, because it is obvious that the modifications of 
motion belong not to sleep, nor the difference of figure 
to virtue. And when any one well considers it, I think 
he will plainly perceive that liberty, which is but a 
power, belongs only to agents and cannot be an attri 
bute or modification of the will, which is also but a 
power. . . For can it be denied that whatever agent has 
a power to think on its own actions, and to prefer their 
doing or omission, either to other, has that faculty 
called will? Will then is nothing but such a power. 
Liberty, on the other hand, is the power a man has to 
do or forbear doing any particular action, according as 



JOHN LOCKE 79 

its doing or forbearance has the actual preference in 
the mind, which is the same thing as to say, according 
as he himself wills it." 

A rambler in a hilly country will come sometimes 
upon a sheet of water, sombre, still and solemn, which 
partly from its own appearance, and partly from the 
ideas of size impressed by the heights around, he will 
judge to be very deep. He tries the experiment of going 
into it, and finds it a shallow with a bottom of black 
mud. And so the reader of Locke s great work, when 
he arrives at the striking passage just quoted, a passage 
that marks an epoch in the free will controversy, is seized 
with awe, and doubts not, as well from the reputation 
of the author as from the originality of the statement, 
that the reasoning which underlies it must be profound 
indeed. But when the first surprise is over, if he coolly 
proceeds to reduce the wondrous argumentation into 
form, another wonder will start up, how the shallow 
sense therein contained can have passed with so many 
readers for deep discernment. 

Locke s definitions of will and freedom may be given 
as follows: 

Will is power of thinking on one s own actions, and 
preferring their doing to their omission, or their omis 
sion to their doing. 

Liberty is power of doing or forbearing to do any 
action, according as its doing or forbearance has the 
actual preference in the mind. 

Which definitions amount to these: 

Will is power of choosing. 

Liberty is power of acting according to choice. 



8o FREE WILL 

From which definitions it follows that this proposition, 

The will has freedom (or) 

The will is free, 
is equipollent with this: 

The power of choosing has the power of acting ac 
cording to choice. 

But that proposition is absurd, since one power cannot 
have another power. Therefore the proposition, "The 
will is free," is absurd, unintelligible, meaningless and ir 
relevant, or, as Locke says, insignificant and improper. 

This is Locke s line of argument, and no one can 
deny that the conclusion of it does follow from the 
premisses, which are definitions. But as one definition 
is wrong and the others defective, the whole argument 
must be said decidedly to halt. These are the definitions 
that I would substitute for them. 

Will is power of consciously rejecting evil and 
choosing good. 

Freedom is the not being under constraint to reject 
any but sheer evil, or choose any but sheer good. 

So that the proposition, "The will is free," means: 

The power of consciously rejecting evil and choosing 
good is not under constraint to reject any but sheer evil, 
or to choose any but sheer good. 

There is sense, I contend, in this proposition, whether 
it be true or not. 

Therefore I demand that to the proposition, "The 
will is free," there be restored that intelligibility, sig 
nificance and relevance which Locke has unwarrantably 
denied to it. 

Free will is a power, the same power as the will, as 



JOHN LOCKE 8 1 

St Thomas shows,* but the liberty or freedom of the 
will is not a power but an incident of a power: it is 
annexed to the condition under which the power of 
rejecting evil and choosing good is exercised; which 
condition is this, that sheer good must not be rejected, 
nor sheer evil chosen. Sheer good to a person is that 
which thoroughly meets the requirements of his nature; 
and sheer evil that which meets those requirements in 
no way whatever. But the objects with which the human 
will is ordinarily conversant are neither sheer good nor 
sheer evil: they are good and evil mixed: they partly 
satisfy us and partly not. In the not being tied fast to 
such objects of choice that liberty consists which is 
incident to the faculty or power called the human will. 

IV 

"We may as properly say that tis the singing fa 
culty sings, and the dancing faculty dances, as that 
the will chooses, or that the understanding conceives. 
... I think the question is not proper whether the will 
be free, but whether a man be free." 

Is not the question, whether a man be free to will ? 
Instead of debating that, Locke inquires whether a 
man be free to do what he wills. For, he asks, how 
can we think any one freer than to have the power to 
do what he will ? 

Of course it is the man himself that sings with his 
singing faculty, dances with his dancing faculty, chooses 
with his will, and conceives with his understanding. 
Still we rightly say that the will chooses and the un 
derstanding conceives, while we do not say that the 

* Sum. Theol. I, q. Ixxxiii, artt. 2 and 4. 

6 



82 FREE WILL 

singing faculty sings, or that the dancingfaculty dances. 
The reason is not far to seek. Will and understanding 
are faculties, answering to the Aristotelian SvvapiQ : 
they are primitive powers. But dancing and singing 
are not * faculties, as Locke is pleased to call them, but 
habits, the Aristotelian t &g: they are acquisitions of 
skill. Faculty is more intimate to man than habit; 
and therefore, putting the part for the whole, we take 
that part for the whole which is more representative 
of the whole; and speak of the faculty doing what the 
man does with the faculty. 

V 

" It passes for a good plea, that a man is not free 
at all, if he be not as free to will, as he is to act what 
he wills. Concerning a man s liberty, there is yet raised 
this farther question, whether a man be free to will; 
which, I think, is what is meant when it is disputed, 
whether the will be free. And as to that, I imagine 
that, willing or volition being an action, and freedom 
consisting in a power of acting or not acting, a man 
in respect of willing or the act of volition, when any 
action in his power is once proposed to his thoughts, 
as presently to be done, cannot be free. The reason 
whereof is very manifest : for, it being unavoidable 
that the action depending on his will should exist or 
not exist; and its existence or not existence following 
perfectly the determination and preference of his will; 
he cannot avoid willing the existence or not exis 
tence of that action. It is absolutely necessary that he 
will the one or the other, i.e., prefer the one to the 
other; since one of them must necessarily follow, and 
that which does follow follows by the choice and de 
termination of his mind, that is, by his willing it: for 



JOHN LOCKE 83 

if he did not will it, it would not be. So that, in res 
pect of the ad of willing, a man in such a case is not 
free: liberty consisting in a power to act or not to 
ad, which, in regard of volition, a man upon such 
a proposal has not. For it is unavoidably necessary 
to prefer the doing or forbearance of an action in 
a man s power, which is once so proposed to his 
thoughts: a man must necessarily will the one or the 
other of them, upon which preference or volition, the 
action, or its forbearance, certainly follows, and is truly 
voluntary; but the act of volition, or preferring one 
of the two, being that which he cannot avoid, a man 
in respect of that act of willing is under a necessity, 
and so cannot be free; unless necessity and freedom 
can consist together, and a man can be free and bound 
at once. This then is evident, that in all proposals of 
present action a man is not at liberty to will or not to 
will, because he cannot forbear willing: liberty con 
sisting in a power to act or to forbear acting, and in 
that only." 

At last Locke stands at bay before the real question, 
and dispatches it with a reason which he calls l>ery mani 
fest^ but which to me appears very obscure, and, on 
inspection, very inconclusive. I subjoin an analysis, 
which anyone may compare with the text. Three argu 
ments are given, or rather, three confused statements 
of one argument: that being Locke s custom when he 
feels that he has not quite hit the nail on the head, to 
hammer all about the spot. 

First Argument 

i. Every action dependent on a man s will must 
either take place or not take place. 



84 FREE WILL 

2. Every action dependent on a man s will takes 
place on condition that he wills it, and does not take 
place on condition that he does not will it. 

3. Therefore the man must will that the action 
should take place, or will that it should not take place. 

Second Argument 

1. Every action dependent on a man s will takes 
place by his willing it: for if he did not will it, it would 
not be. 

2. But he must will one way or the other. 

3. Therefore, one way or the other, he wills of 
necessity. 

Third Argument 

1. He who cannot forbear willing is not at liberty 
to will or not to will. 

2. Man cannot forbear willing, upon any proposal 
of present action. 

3. Therefore man is not at liberty to will or not to 
will upon any proposal of present action. 

The first remark that I have to make upon these 
arguments is that they need lengthening out in order 
to reach the heart of the matter of free will. If they 
are valid, they prove that, when an action is proposed 
to us, we must either positively consent or positively 
refuse to do it: we are not free to abstain alike from 
consent and refusal. But some, I suppose, contend that 
this conclusion still leaves us free; since, though we 
must exert an act of the will, it rests with us, they say, 
to make that act a consent or a refusal. Though I do 
not agree with those thinkers, their position, it seems to 



JOHN LOCKE 85 

me, has enough show of reason to render Locke s tri 
umph incomplete until it is rebutted. But I deny that 
conclusion (that we are not free to abstain alike from 
consent and refusal), and challenge the arguments 
alleged on its behalf. 

_ In the first argument the first proposition is true by 
virtue of what logicians call the law of excluded middle. 
The first half of the second proposition is true by the 
wording. The second half of that same proposition is 
true as it stands: it is true that the condition for an 
action, dependent on a man s will, not to take place, is 
that he shall not will it to take place. But it is not 
true that the condition for the action not to take place 
is that he shall positively will its not taking place. That 
is what Locke wishes to be understood in the second 
half of this seemingly self-evident second proposition. 
And that is the false conclusion which he gathers, with 
a therefore prefixed, in the third proposition. 

Surely, there is a difference between the negative 
state of not willing and the positive act, I will not. There 
is a difference between not saying yes and saying no. 
There is a difference between not voting for a measure 
and voting against it. When an action depends on my 
willing it, that is, making up my mind that it shall be 
done, my refraining from having any will, or making 
up my mind at all upon the matter, is quite enough to 
bar the action. I need not say, // shall not be; it will not 
be unless I say, It shall. Otherwise there would be no 
such thing in the world as irresolution. A man who 
did not at once resolve on one course would thereby 
have resolved on the other. Yet, who has not been ir- 



86 FREE WILL 

resolute, undecided, unable to make up his mind, a 
prey to hesitation and doubt, in many a critical hour of 
his life? It may be replied, however, that this state of 
doubt consists, not in a withholding of the will, which 
Locke argues to be impossible, but in a quick succes 
sion of contradictory volitions. Is irresolution a state 
of rest or of oscillation? Oscillation it is called by a 
common figure of speech. The figure is so far correct, 
inasmuch as a person in doubt inclines now to one 
alternative and now to another. But does he will now 
the one, now the other? I think he does not will in the 
full sense of the term. For what is it fully and properly 
to will? I conceive the process to be this. A good is 
presented to the mind: a complacency is raised there 
by: the person adverts to his complacency, and so ac 
quiesces in it. Now, if I am not mistaken, an irreso 
lute person does not ordinarily accomplish a series of 
these processes in full. The advantages of one alterna 
tive strike him with a liking for it, but, as he looks 
inward, he does not approve of that liking; then come 
the rival advantages, and affect him in the same way, 
without his taking to them either. Thus he advances to 
the first stage of volition on this side and on that, but 
on neither side does he reach the second stage. I am 
not denying that he may reach it and then go back; 
but I say, so far as I can read my own consciousness 
on the matter, and each man has no other conscious 
ness to read but his own, that a man, when he hesi 
tates, does not usually accomplish in succession a num 
ber of complete conflicting volitions ; he does not usually 
make up his mind fully for a thing and then fully against 



JOHN LOCKE 87 

it; but he does what the word hesitate signifies, he sticks 
fast halfway in the process of willing; and the thing 
which depends on his will is not done, simply because 
he never thoroughly wills it. If this be so, the facl is 
fatal to Locke s argumentation. 

The second argument is a restatement of the first. 
The first prosposition in it is true; the second is false, 
and the conclusion does not follow. 

In the third argument, again, the first proposition 
is true, and the second false, and so the conclusion 
fails. 

VI 

"To ask whether a man be at liberty to will motion 
or rest, speaking or silence, which he pleases, is to 
ask whether a man can will what he wills or be 
pleased with what he is pleased with, a question which 
I think needs no answer; and they who can make a 
question out of it must suppose one will to determine 
the acls of another, and another to determine that, and 
so on in infinitum" 

To suppose a man already to will or to be pleased 
with a thing, and then ask whether he can will it or 
be pleased with it, is of course absurd; but to say that 
no reason can be assigned for a man s freely willing a 
thing beyond his freely willing it, is, I believe, to speak 
the truth. Locke thinks that it involves an infinite series 
of wills. A man wills because he wills to will, and he 
wills to will because he wills to will to will, and so 
forth; but this is absurd; therefore, a man has no self- 
determination. In like manner it might be argued that 
we have no self-knowledge; because, if we had, we 



88 FREE WILL 

should say, we know that we know, to infinity. Car 
dinal Newman remarks on this point: 

"Of course these reflex acts may be repeated in a 
series. As I pronounce that Great Britain is an island, 
and then pronounce That "Great Britain is an island" 
has a claim on my assent, or is to be assented to, or 
to be accepted as true, or to be believed, or simply 
is true (these predicates being equivalent), so I may 
proceed, The proposition "that Great Britain is an 
island is to be believed," is to be believed, etc., etc., 
and so on to infinitum. But this would be trifling. The 
mind is like a double mirror, in which reflections of 
self within self multiply themselves till they are un- 
distinguishable, and the first reflection contains all the 
rest."* 

When an offer is made to an antiquarian of a trip 
to Constantinople, and he is delighted with the idea, 
that delight does not originate there and then with 
him. It is the result of the words addressed to him 
working upon his previous dispositions. The only way 
in which he personally has promoted the delight 
which he feels is by those his previous acts which 
have disposed him that way. But during that first 
instant of surprise and pleasure he is quite passive. 
And yet the volition to visit the city of Constan- 
tine is already drawn up, like a document awaiting 
his signature; or to use a more appropriate compari 
son, it lives already within him, and expects his recog 
nition and acknowledgement of it for his own. Sup 
pose that when he looks into himself he approves of 
* Grammar of Assent, p. 1 88. 



JOHN LOCKE 89 

the complacency which he finds there, and fully and 
freely wills to undertake the journey, I ask what 
moves him to that free volition? And the answer is 
twofold, partly regarding the volition and partly the 
freedom of it. The volition, by which I mean here 
the original complacency taken in the idea of actually 
going to Constantinople, is, as I have said, the result 
of an impression from without encountering certain 
previous habits of mind in him who receives it. Thus 
far the motion comes from without, and not from the 
person s own self. But the freedom of the volition, 
that is, the fact of the complacency being persevered 
in after advertence, when it might have been rejected, 
that perseverance is of the proper motion of the per 
son and proceeds from him, and from none other 
besides him. If you raise the question why he perse 
veres, you are liable to the demand, why should he 
not? The complacency has possession of his mind, and 
we know whence it came. To acquiesce in it and con 
sciously to sustain and intensify it, now that it is pre 
sent, is not to turn the act in a new direction, but to 
stamp it with a new character, and, as it were, to set 
the seal of the ego upon it. Clearly, therefore, the 
person can acquiesce in that complacency. It is no less 
clear that he need not acquiesce therein. For no na 
ture need acquiesce in what does not fully satisfy its 
needs. But the needs of man s nature rise as high 
as does his conception of good; and he conceives 
good far higher than going to Constantinople. That 
good, therefore, does not necessitate him to acquiesce 
in the cmoplaccncy which it excites within him. If he 



90 FREE WILL 

withholds acquiescence, the complacency, being ad 
verted to without being approved, withers away. 

Once more I have explained what I believe to be 
the process of free volition. The account is open to 
criticism, as all accounts of delicate workings are. 
But I do not see how the reproach of postulating an 
infinite series of wills can be fastened upon it by a 
candid reader. 

VII 

*"Good and evil, present and absent, tis true, work 
upon the mind; but that which immediately deter 
mines the will from time to time to every voluntary 
action is the uneasiness of desire fixed on some absent 
good, either negative, as indolency to one in pain; or 
positive, as enjoyment of pleasure. That it is this un 
easiness that determines the will to the successive 
voluntary actions whereof the greatest part of our lives 
is made up, and by which we are conducted through 
different courses to different ends, I shall endeavour 
to show both from experience and the reason of the 
the thing. When a man is perfectly content with the 
state he is in, which is when he is perfectly without any 
uneasiness, what industry, what action, what will is 
there left but to continue in it? Of this every man s 
observation will satisfy him. . . Convince a man never 
so much that plenty has its advantages over poverty, 
make him see and own that the handsome conveni 
ences of life are better than nasty penury, yet as long 
as he is content with the latter and finds no uneasiness 
in it, he moves not; his will never is determined to 
any action that shall bring him out of it. Let a man 
be ever so well persuaded of the advantages of vir- 

* In this quotation the several passages stand not exadlly in the 
same order in which Locke presents them. 



JOHN LOCKE 91 

tue, that it is as necessary to a man who has any great 
aims in this world, or hopes in the next, as food to 
life; yet till he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, 
till he feels an uneasiness in the want of it, his will 
will not be determined to any aclion in pursuit of 
this confessed greater good; but any other uneasiness 
he feels in himself shall take place and carry his will to 
other adions. . . If we inquire into the reason of what 
experience makes so evident in fact, and examine why 
tis uneasiness alone operates on the will and deter 
mines it in its choice, we shall find that, we being 
capable but of one determination of the will to one 
action at once, the present uneasiness that we are 
under does naturally determine the will, in order to 
that happiness which we all aim at in all our actions; 
forasmuch as whilst we are under any uneasiness we 
cannot apprehend ourselves happy or in the way to 
it; pain and uneasiness being by every one concluded 
and felt to be inconsistent with happiness, spoiling the 
relish even of those good things which we have, a 
little pain serving to mar all the pleasure we rejoiced 
in. And therefore that which of course determines the 
choice of our wills to the next action will always be 
the removing of pain, as long as we have any left, as 
the first and necessary step towards happiness. Another 
reason why tis uneasiness alone determines the will 
may be this: because that alone is present, and tis 
against the nature of things that what is absent should 
operate where it is not. It may be said that absent 
good may by contemplation be brought home to the 
mind and made present. The idea of it, indeed, may 
be in the mind, and viewed as present there; but 
nothing will be in the mind as a present good able to 
counterbalance the removal of any uneasiness which 
we are under till it raises our desire, and the uneasi- 



92 FREE WILL 

ness of that has the prevalency in determining the 
will. Till then, the idea in the mind of whatever good 
is only there like other ideas, the object of bare, in- 
aclive speculation, but operates not on the will, nor 
sets us on work. . . For the removal of the pains we 
feel and are at present pressed with being the getting 
out of misery, and consequently the first thing to be 
done in order to happiness; absent good, though 
thought on, confessed and appearing to be good, not 
making any part of this unhappiness in its absence, is 
jostled out to make way for the removal of those 
uneasinesses we feel, till due and repeated contempla 
tion has brought it nearer to our mind, given some 
relish of it, and raised in us some desire, which then 
beginning to make a part of our present uneasiness 
stands upon fair terms with the rest to be satisfied, and 
so according to its greatness and pressure comes in its 
turn to determine the will. . . Were the will determined 
by the views of good, as it appears in contemplation 
greater or less to the understanding, which is the state 
of all absent good, and that which in the received opi 
nion the will is supposed to move to and to be moved 
by, I do not see how it could ever get loose from the 
infinite eternal joys of heaven, once proposed and con 
sidered as possible. . . This I think anyone may ob 
serve in himself and others, that the greater visible 
good does not always raise men s desires in proportion 
to the greatness it appears and is acknowledged to have, 
though every little trouble moves us, and sets us at 
work to get rid of it.. The reason whereof is evident 
from the nature of our happiness and misery itself. 
All present pain, whatever it be, makes a part of our 
present misery; but all absent good does not at any 
time make a part of our present happiness, nor the 
absence of it make a part of our misery. If it did, we 



JOHN LOCKE 93 

should be constantly and infinitely miserable, there 
being infinite degrees of happiness which are not in 
our possession. All uneasiness, therefore, being re 
moved, a moderate portion of goo 1 serves at present 
to content men, and some few degrees of pleasure in 
a succession of ordinary enjoyments make up a hap 
piness wherein they can be satisfied. . . But we being 
in this world beset with sundry uneasinesses, dis 
tracted with different desires, the next inquiry natu 
rally will be, which of them has the precedency in de 
termining the will to the next action. And to that the 
answer is, that ordinarily which is the most pressing 
of those that are judged capable of being then removed. 
For the will, being the power of directing our opera 
tive faculties to some action for some end, cannot at 
any time be moved towards what is judged at that time 
unattainable. That would be to suppose an intelligent 
being designedly to act for an end only to lose its la 
bour; for so it is to act for what is judged not attain 
able, and therefore very great uneasinesses move not 
the will when they are j udged not capable of a cure : they 
in that case put us not upon endeavours. But these set 
apart, the most important and urgent uneasiness we 
at that time feel is that which ordinarily determines 
the will successively in that train of voluntary actions 
which make up our lives. The greatest present un 
easiness is the spur to action that is constantly felt and 
for the most part determines the will in its choice of 
the next action." 

Locke says that the will is determined ordinarily 
and for the most part by the greatest present uneasi 
ness: he does not say always. Indeed in the next 
section he sets a limitation to the axiom. With that 
limitation I shall have to deal. My argument here is 



94 FREE WILL 

not directed against the position upon which Locke 
ultimately retires, but against the bare, unqualified 
statement that the will is ever and always determined 
by the greatest present uneasiness. 

And first let us take the word determined literally, 
in the full Hobbesian sense of necessitated. Man would 
be a pitiful creature if he were thus the puppet of his 
discomforts, the sport of the first uneasiness that be 
fell him. From the cradle to the grave he would grovel 
in unredeemed bondage to his bodily wants. The cra 
vings of appetite are our earliest promptings to action; 
and throughout life they touch us closest, and affect 
us most urgently in the way of present uneasiness. 
What room does such a doctrine leave for any forma 
tion of habits of temperance and self-control? 

I wonder what was the greatest present uneasiness 
of the martyr St Lawrence on his gridiron. His libe 
ration rested with himself: it was to be bought with 
a word. There was the pain of future remorse in the 
scale against that word of apostasy: there was the pain 
of actual burning fire making for it. Which was the 
greater pain? Some may argue from the martyr s 
choice, that he found the remorse more painful. But 
it is not a question of the agony of remorse against the 
agony of burning, but of a prospect of the former 
agony against an actual endurance of the latter. It is 
hard to believe that the shadow of threatened re 
morse distressed the young deacon more than did the 
reality of present fire. It is a revolting philosophy which 
pictures a witness of CHRIST unto torments and death, 
as merely doing after all the pleasantest thing that he 



JOHN LOCKE 95 

could do under the circumstances, seeking his greater 
ease and comfort in the jaws of the flames, and only 
not denying his LORD because on the whole it was less 
painful to confess Him. It is not creditable to natu 
ral manliness, let alone to supernatural sanctity, to be 
driven by the prickings of uneasiness, as it were at the 
bayonet s point, to deeds of heroism and high renown. 
Or, taking the word determined in a looser sense, 
shall we say that the greatest present uneasiness is ever 
for the time being the strongest determinant, or mo 
tive, to the will, whether the will consent to it or not? 
That would be to ignore the well-established Aristo 
telian distinction between pleasures that presuppose 
a previous uneasiness, now being allayed, and plea 
sures that are attractive of themselves, no uneasiness 
being presupposed. These are Aristotle s words: 

They say that pain is a falling below the natural level, and 
pleasure a filling up to the natural level. But these are bodily 
incidents. If pleasure is a filling up to the natural level, the 
subject of pleasure will be that subject in which the filling 
up takes place, namely, the body. But that conclusion is not 
acceptable. Pleasure then is not a filling up, but the man feels 
pleasure when the filling up takes place. This belief seems to 
have arisen from the consideration of the pleasures and pains 
connected with nutrition; seeing that when men are in want 
of food, and have experienced the previousannoyance of hunger 
and thirst, then they feel pleasure in the making up of the 
deficiency. But this is not the case in all pleasures. The plea 
sures of mathematical discovery involve no such previous pain; 
nor the pleasures of the senses of smell, hearing and sight; 
nor the pleasures of memory and hope. 

It is not to allay any personal discomfort, or mental 
uneasiness, that the astronomer sweeps the heavens 



96 FREE WILL 

with his spectroscope and speculates on the composi 
tion of the stars. Or does the poet sing to allay the 
turmoil ofa frenzied mind ? Keble, I know, maintains the 
affirmative in his once-celebrated Pr<?lectiones Academic*. 
But there is a poetic and artistic pleasure of a softer 
and a gentler sort which comes of an activity congenial 
in itself, and attractive to the will for its own sake, 
apart from any uneasiness which it may allay. 

I further observe that the axiom in debate fails to 
allow for force of character, apt to withstand immedi 
ate solicitation, and for that habit of endurance of 
uneasiness which Aristotle calls KapTtpia. For this, 
however, Locke himself does make due allowance, as 
will appear in the next section. 

Happiness on earth is rather prospective than present : 
it lies in hope and exertion, not in fruition and repose. 
To a huntsman in an eager chase, the very toil of 
riding is pleasure. The stoppage of his horse would vex 
him more than the escape of the fox. All happy men 
on earth are huntsmen after something. This continued 
chase supposes a spur of uneasiness, unfelt in the heat 
of pursuit, but goading the flank of the eager soul the 
moment the pursuit is stopped. We may be at our ease, 
after a fashion, so long as we are diligent; but like the 
swimmer in troubled waters, we are not, cannot in this 
world, be at rest. If then we take " uneasiness " to 
include not bodily discomfort only, but the uneasiness 
of curiosity, of ambition, of zeal, we must allow that 
uneasiness sets an edge on all human motive, though 
it would not be true to say that all human motive is 
made up of uneasiness. The philosophy of uneasiness 



JOHN LOCKE 97 

is eloquently set forth by St Augustine, in the two 
following passages, which seem in place here. 

Need is the mother of all human actions. Brethren, I have 
just told you the truth in brief. Run through in mind any 
action you like: see if aught engenders them but need. Con 
sider even those pre-eminent arts which are rated high, the 
pleadings of oratory and the aids of medicine, for such are 
the professions which excel in this world, what of them? 
Take away lawsuits, whom does the advocate assist? Take 
away diseases and wounds, what does the physician heal? 
Again, all those actions of ours that are required and per 
formed for our daily sustenance spring out of need. Ploughing, 
sowing, planting, navigation, what begets all such works but 
need and want? Take away hunger, thirst and nakedness, 
and what use are they all? The same even with the works 
of mercy that are enjoined in the Christian law. For the 
works which I have hitherto mentioned are morally good in 
deed, but belong to all men, I leave out of count the worst 
sort of works, those detestable works, crimes and enormities, 
murders, mutilations and adulteries: them I do not reckon 
amongst human works, but these lawful works I spenk of 
are born of no other parent than need, the need incident to our 
fleshly frailty. The like holds true of those works also which I 
have said are enjoined upon Christians. Break thy bread to the 
needy. To whom breakest thou, where no one hungers? 
Gather the needy and hnrbourless into thy house. What stranger 
dost thou entertain, where all dwell in their own country? 
What litigants dost thou reconcile, where there is everlasting 
peace? What dead dost thou bury, where there is life eternal? 
Thou art not there likely to do any of those lawful works 
that belong to all men. Thou art not likely to do any of the 
works of mercy: for those young of the turtle (Ps. Ixxxiii, 3) 
will then be flown from the nest. To thee I turn, O Prophet. 
Thou hast already told us what we shall have: Blessed are 
they who d^ucll in thy house. Tell us now what the blessed 
shall do, for I see not any needs in that state to impel me to 
action. Lo, my present speech and discourse is the fruit of need. 

7 



98 FREE WILL 

Shall there be in heaven the like discoursing, to teach the 
ignorant, forsooth, and to remind the forgetful? Or shall the 
Gospel be read there in our own country, where the Word 
of GOD shall be gazed upon in person? Therefore since the 
Psalmist, desiring and sighing in our name, has told us what 
we are to have in the country for which he sighs: Blessed, 
he says, are they who dwell in thy house, let him tell us what 
we are to do. They shall praise thee for ever and ever. This 
will be our whole unceasing occupation, alleluia. Let it not 
seem to you, brethren, that there will be weariness there, 
because here you cannot endure to be repeating GOD S praises 
for long; it is need that diverts you from that joy. And con 
sidering that a thing is so much the less pleasing for being 
unseen, if, under the pressure and frailty of our flesh, we 
praise with such alacrity what we believe, how shall we praise 
what we shall see! When death shall be swallowed up in 
victory; when this mortal body shall have put on immor 
tality, and this corruptible body shall have put on incorrup- 
tion, no one will say, I have been a long time standing; no 
one will say, I have been a long time fasting, I have been a 
long time without sleep. For there shall be great stability 
there; and the very immortality of our body shall then be rapt 
in the contemplation of GOD. And if now this word which 
we dispense to you keeps the frailty of our flesh standing so 
long, what will that joy do for us? How will it change us? 
For we shall be like Him, since we shall see Him as He is. 
Being come to be like Him, when shall we fail? where shall 
we falter? Let us then rest assured, brethren; naught but the 
praise of GOD and the love of GOD will satisfy us. If you 
cease from love, you will cease from praise. But if your love 
shall be unceasing, inasmuch as that beauty without cloy shall be 
unceasing, have no fear of not being always able to praise Him 
whom you will always be able to love. Therefore blessed 
are they who dwell in Thy house; they shall praise Thee for 
ever and ever.* 

So in another place the holy Doctor treats of our 
present labour and future rest: 

* Aug. in Ps. Ixxxiii. 



JOHN LOCKE 99 

Hunger and thirst fight daily: the weariness of the flesh 
fights against us: the delight of sleep fights: so too does the 
oppression of it. We wish to watch, and we fall asleep: we 
wish to fast, and we hunger and thirst: we wish to stand, and 
we get tired: we try sitting down, and if we sit long, we are at 
a !os^ whut to do with ourselves. Whatever we provide for our 
rch xhment, there we find a new want. Are you hungry? 
some one says to you. You answer, Yes, I am. He sets food 
before you. He sets it there to refresh you: go on with what 
is set before you. I know you wished to take refreshment: make 
that your lasting occupation ; by doing so, you will find weariness 
in that which you had provided to refresh you. You are tired 
with long sitting: you get up and refresh yourself by a walk. Go 
on with that recreation: you are wearied with long walking and 
seek again to sit. Find me any way of refreshing yourself that 
will not exhaust you anew, if you continue in it. What peace, 
therefore, is that which men have here in face of so many dis 
tresses, cravings, wants and wearinesses? That is no true, no 
perfect peace. What will be perfeft peace? This corruptible body 
must put on incorruption, and this mortal body put on immor 
tality: then the saying shall be fulfilled which is written: Death 
is swallowed up in victory. Where is, O death, thy viclory? 
Where is, O death, thy struggle? How should there be entire 
peace where there is still mortality? For of death comes that 
weariness which we find in all our refreshments. Of death, I 
say, because we bear a body doomed to die; a body which the 
Apostle calls dead, even before the separation of the soul: the 
body indeed, he says, is dead through sin. Go on with much 
eating: the very at will kill you. Go on with much fasting, 
and you will die of it. Sit always, refusing to rise, and you 
will die of that. Walk always, refusing to sit down, you will 
die of that. Watch always, refusing to sleep, you will die of 
that. Sleep always, refusing to awake, you will die of that. 
When, therefore, death shall be swallowed up in victory, these 
things shall not be, and there shall be peace, entire and ever 
lasting. We shall be in a certain city, brethren. When I speak 
of it, I am unwilling to end, especially as scandals thicken. Who 
would not desire that peace whence no friend shall be absent, 



ioo FREE WILL 

whither no enemy intrudes, where there is no tempter, no 
mutineer, no divider of the people of GOD, no harasser of the 
Church in the service of the Evil One; when the archrebel 
himself shall be cast into everlasting fire, and with him, who 
soever sympathises with him, and will not abandon his cause ? 
There will then, I say, be peace, peace refined and purified, 
among the sons of GOD, all loving one another and seeing 
themselves full of GOD, when GOD shall be all in all. We shall 
have GOD for our common spectacle: we shall have GOD for 
our common possession: we shall have God for our common 
peace. Whatever it is that He gives us at present, He will be 
to us in place of all that He gives: He will be our entire and 
perfect peace. This peace He speaks to His people; this peace 
the Psalmist wished to hear when he said: / will bear what 
the Lord speaketb in me, for he will speak peace to bis people and 
upon his saints.* 

VIII 

"There being in us a great many uneasinesses 
always soliciting and ready to determine the will, it is 
natural, as I have said, that the greatest and most pres 
sing should determine the will to the next action, and 
so it does for the most part, but not always. For the 
mind having in most cases, as is evident from experi 
ence, a power to suspend the execution and satisfac 
tion of any of its desires, and so all, one after another, 
is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine 
them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In this 
lies the liberty man has ; and from the not using it right, 
comes all that variety of mistakes, errors and faults which 
we run into in the conduct of our lives and our endea 
vours after happiness, whilst we precipitate the deter 
mination of our wills, and engage too soon before due 
examination. To prevent this, we have a power to sus 
pend the prosecution of this or that desire, as every 
one daily may experiment in himself. This seems to me 

* Aug. in Ps. Ixxxiv. 



JOHN LOCKE 101 

the source of all liberty; in this seems to consist that 
which is (as I think, improperly) called free will." 

The Bodleian Library possesses a copy of Locke s 
Essay concerning Humane Understanding, bearing the 
date 1690. In the "Epistle to the Reader" the author 
informs us how he has made various additions to the 
work as originally published, notably on Book II, 
chap, xxi, concerning Liberty and the Will. He goes 
on ingenuously to say: "These are advantages of this 
edition, which the bookseller hopes will make it sell. . . 
He [bookseller] has promised to print them by them 
selves, so that the former edition may not be wholly 
lost to those who have it, but by the insertion in their 
proper places of the passages that will be reprinted 
alone, to that purpose, the former book may be made 
as little defective as possible." In the Bodleian copy 
accordingly these additions figure as insertions between 
the pages. Opposite p. 124 the reader will find the very 
extract above quoted: it is numbered " 47." It is then 
an afterthought; and, curiously enough, in this after 
thought Locke approximates closely to the theory of 
free will put forward in the present work. Formerly 
he held that liberty was the power of thinking or not 
thinking, doing or forbearing, as we wished; now he 
makes it to be "a power to suspend the prosecution* 
of this or that desire." 

The exercise of this suspensory power is called by 

Locke forbearance ; and he has already told us that 

"mere forbearances require as much the determination 

of the will as the contrary actions." To this statement 1 

* For "prosecution" I should say "ratification." 



io2 FREE WILL 

do not agree altogether. I accept it only with a distinc 
tion. Some forbearances require the determination of the 
will, others do not. Positive forbearance is a resolu 
tion not to do a thing here and now: that resolution is a 
determination of the will, in fad, a volition. But there 
are negative forbearances also. A negative for 
bearance is the very reverse of resolution: it is a state 
of irresolution, indecision, hesitation ; there is no deter 
mination of the will there. Now if Locke would only 
recognise these negative forbearances, and admit 
that the aptitude of such forbearance is the root of all 
human liberty, my contention with him would cease. 

I account this passage of Locke highly valuable and 
noteworthy. It contains the answer to the inquiry so 
often set on foot, whether the will can follow the weaker 
motive. It must be remarked that the strength of a 
motive is measured in our regard by the direct atten 
tion which we pay to it. When one advantage is care 
fully contemplated, and a greater advantage carelessly 
glanced at, that will be in the mind the greater advan 
tage, which is objectively the less. The good that is 
considered at any given instant, furnishes the domi 
nant motive for that instant. If any volition be accom 
plished just then, it cannot but be a volition to follow 
that motive and accept that good. But the person may 
for the nonce abstain from all volition, unless the good 
before him be a perfect good, filling to the brim his 
conscious capacity of enjoyment. If the proposed good 
comes short of that measure, he may withhold his ap 
proval from the complacency which it has caused in 
him: he may check his volition midway, simply by not 



JOHN LOCKE 103 

going on with it. " In "this," as Locke appositely ob 
serves, "lies the liberty man has; in this seems to 
consist that which is, as I think," with all deference 
to so grave an authority, properly "called free will." 
When a boat is left high and dry on the beach, if 
she floats away with any tide, it must be with the tide 
that is in at the time of her floating. She cannot float 
away on Monday morning with the tide that went out 
on Sunday afternoon. It depends on her owners, pro 
vided they secure her properly, whether she shall float 
away with any tide, and if with any, with what tide. 
Tides are conceivable, which would sweep away any 
boat left within their reach; but they are of excep 
tional occurrence. When the tide is in, and the owners 
do not wish the boat to go out with it, all that they do 
is not to unmoor her, that is, they do nothing to her. 
Their liberty as regards the floating of that boat con 
sists in this, that theirs is the decision whether the 
boat shall or shall not float away with any ordinary tide : 
if she does float away, they could have hindered her; 
if she does not, they could have made her. They sus 
pend the floating till whatsoever tide they think good. 
This is the picture of the case of a person willing. If 
he exercises any complete volition, in other words, if 
he consciously approves any complacency, he must 
approve the particular complacency that is on him at 
the moment, and not any absent complacency. It rests 
with him to approve any or none, with advertence; 
to will, that is, or to abstain from willing. There are 
good things great enough to fill with rapturous compla 
cency his whole nature, and necessitate hisconscious ac- 



io 4 FREE WILL 

ceptance of them; but such a good thing is rara avis in 
terris. When a person has a complacency, which does 
not turn it into a full act of the will, all he need do is 
not to approve of it: he simply lets it go. He may 
suspend his volition through complacency after com 
placency, as many as he is not pleased to sanction. 

To interfere with this suspension of volition is to 
interfere with the agent s freedom. When an enthu 
siast wishes us to say yes or no upon the spot to a 
proposal of some interest, we are wont to damp his 
ardour by telling him that we will see. That expres 
sion signifies that we will please ourselves, and follow 
our own determination, more than he is willing to 
allow us. A thing said or done on the spur of the 
moment, before we have had time to think, is rather 
an appendage and sequel to previous volitions than a 
fresh volition by itself. It is true that indecision can 
not last for ever, and when we have hesitated long, the 
very length of our hesitation precipitates our choice, 
which is frequently made in a hurry at the end of a 
tedious weighing of motives. But account must be 
taken then, not so much of the actual choice, as of the 
way by which it has been reached, through a continued 
exercise of liberty. Perhaps King Edward VI con 
sented to Joan Bocher s death in a fit of don t-care 
weariness of Cranmer s importunity; but how often 
had the idea of definitively refusing his consent passed 
before his mind and not been acted upon, or had been 
acted upon and the act been recalled! His will, though 
becoming less free as delay became more and more 
impossible, was free for every instant that his wavering 



JOHN LOCKE 105 

lasted: the collected freedom of all those instants to 
gether gathers round the volition which sent Joan to 
the stake. 

IX 

"Would anyone be a changeling,* because he is 
less determined by wise considerations than a wise 
man ? Is it worth the name of freedom to be at liberty 
to play the fool, and draw shame and misery upon a 
man s self? If to break loose from the conduct of rea 
son, and to want that restraint of examination and 
judgement which keeps us from choosing or doing 
the worst, be liberty, true liberty, madmen and fools 
are the only freemen: but yet I think nobody would 
choose to be mad for the sake of such liberty but he 
that is mad already." 

It is impossible for man to be so free as not to be 
moved by any motives. For man is not complete in 
himself; his nature requires things outside of him; 
consequently external objects attract his nature and stir 
his craving and influence his conduct. The only ques 
tion is, what motives shall effectually move him. That 
depends on himself. He determines which way he 
shall go, and he gathers momentum by going, so that 
it is not so easy for him to stop when once he is 
started. Thus he becomes as we say addicted^ that is, 
bound 0>T, to virtue or to vice, as St Paul tells the 
Romans, "Know ye not that to whomsoever ye yield 
yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom 
ye obey; whether it be of sin unto death, or ot obe 
dience unto righteousness? . . . Being made free from 
sin, ye were made servants to righteousness. . . When 

* An ape. 



io6 FREE WILL 

ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard to 
righteousness."* Free will is not given to us to romp 
and play the fool with, but to choose good, and there 
by contract that habit of choosing good which is called 
virtue. A person who should strive to observe neu 
trality between virtue and vice, and seek of set pur 
pose to escape entanglement with either in order to 
preserve his freedom intact, would speedily become 
the bondslave of vice. For performances always fall 
short of the ideal standard of good contemplated by 
the agent. If then the ideal in view be not too much of 
goodness^ the result actually achieved is likely to turn 
out a deal too much of villainy. Plato compared the ser 
vant of righteousness, the servant of unrighteousness, 
and the trimmer between the two, to the city of good 
government, the city of bad government, and the city 
of no government, respectively. He shows how rapidly 
the third state passes into the second, from no govern 
ment to bad government, from anarchy to tyranny. 
The man of no habits and no character degenerates 
into a man of bad character and vicious habits. I have 
no quarrel with Locke here. 

X 

"Liberty, tis plain, consists in a power to do or 
not to do, to do or forbear doing, as we will. This 
cannot be denied. But this seeming to comprehend only 
the actions of a man consecutive to volition, it is further 
inquired whether hebe at liberty towillor no. Andto this 
it has been answered that in most cases a man is not at 
liberty to forbear the act of volition; he must exert an 

* Romans vi, 16, 18, 20. 



JOHN LOCKE 107 

act of his will, whereby the action proposed is made to 
exist or not to exist. But yet there is a case wherein a man 
is at liberty in respect of willing, and that is the choosing 
of a remote good as an end to be pursued. Here a man 
may suspend the act of his choice from being deter 
mined for or against the thing proposed, till he has 
examined whether it be really of a nature in itself and 
consequences to make him happy or no. . . That 
which in the train of our voluntary actions determines 
the will to any change of operation, is some present 
uneasiness, which is, or at least is always acccompanied 
with, that of desire. Desire is always moved by evil, 
to fly it; because a total freedom from pain always makes 
a necessary part of our happiness. But every good, nay, 
every greater good, does not constantly move desire, 
because it may not make, or may not be taken to 
make, any necessary part of our happiness. For all that 
we desire is only to be happy. But though this general 
desire of happiness operates constantly and invariably, 
yet the satisfaction of any particular desire can be su- 
pended from determining the will to any subservient 
action till we have maturely examined whether the parti 
cular apparent good, which we then desire, makes a part 
of our real happiness, or be consistent or inconsistent 
with it. The result of our judgement upon that examina 
tion is what ultimately determines the man, who could 
not be free, if his will were determined by anything 
but his own desire, guided by his own judgement." 

These two extracts together form a sort of map of 
the ground over which Locke has gone and I after 
him. Let us recapitulate results. Locke s first position 
was that "he is free who can do what he wills to do." 
Liberty, taken this way, is one with power. That man 
is the most free who is the strongest, the ablest, the 



io8 FREE WILL 

best supplied with means for effecting his purpose, 
whatever it be. An absolute sovereign, then, a Sesostris 
or a Bajazet, would show forth in his person the per 
fect type of a free man. The plenitude of liberty is the 
plenitude of arbitrary power; and Hobbes was right 
in his sarcastic observation, that when men cry for 
liberty, they want power. I am surprised at a patriarch 
of English Liberalism lending any countenance to this 
view. What fault had Locke to find with Charles II 
and James II, if those aspirants to autocracy were 
merely coveting for themselves that which is the birth 
right of every Englishman? Why did Locke place the 
German Ocean between him and two such liberty- 
loving English monarchs? Was it because they loved 
power too well? But if power is freedom, what Liberal 
can love it too well? I will desist, however, from this 
argumentum ad hominem. I need do no more than re 
mark that power may well be physical freedom, but it 
is not that mental and moral autonomy which a psycho 
logist, to say nothing of a statesman, is bound to 
study. 

Locke s second position was that " the will is de 
termined by the greatest present uneasiness." If that 
were true without qualification, there would be no 
room for the moral autonomy of free will. Uneasiness 
comes upon us from without. It is not ourselves, but 
our surroundings, including the accidents of our body 
independent of our will, that make us uneasy. Virtue, 
or the steady doing of what is right, could never be 
secured by these fortuitous promptings of uneasiness. 
Happily, most men are virtuous to a greater or less 



JOHN LOCKE 109 

degree. They could not live within the pale of a civi 
lised community otherwise. Locke recognises this 
truth; and thereupon endows us with a power to 
" suspend the satisfaction of any particular desire till 
we have further considered whether the particular 
apparent good, which we then desire, makes a part of 
our real happiness." This third position is a near 
approximation to what I consider to be the true theory 
of free will. The one thing that I dislike about it is 
that Locke takes this suspension to be always itself an 
act of volition. Were it so, it would be necessary for 
the philosopher to inquire into the motive of that act 
of suspension, or the present * uneasiness that deter 
mined such act. It would look very much like a reso 
lution taken, a volition achieved, against the greatest 
present uneasiness. This troublesome inquiry is ren 
dered unnecessary, if we allow that the suspension or 
adjournment of action need not come of a positive 
volition to adjourn, but merely out of a negation, the 
absence of a full self-determination to act. The present 
* uneasiness, as Locke calls it, determines the sponta 
neous complacency; but that motus primo primus^ as 
divines call it, is not an achieved volition; it must be 
adverted to, and under advertence its drawbacks must 
appear. Then, without further act, the adverting mind 
may hesitate to endorse and approve the complacency, 
and the complacency never becomes a volition till it 
is approved. To hurry the agent on so fast as to leave 
no time for advertence or consideration at all, would 
be to exclude free choice by the exclusion of all choice 
and full volition. Under the above explanation I 



i io FREE WILL 

agree with Locke that " the man could not be free, 
if his will were determined by anything else than his 
own desire, guided by his own judgement." 

In conclusion, I observe that it is one thing for an 
action to be our own by being freely done by us, and 
another thing for it to be our own by being an action 
becoming for us to do. An action becoming us may even 
be somewhat of a necessity on our part. I allude not to the 
outward constraint of any secular arm, but to the inner 
efficacy of a virtuous custom. A man who has long 
studied good and done good, sees evil so clearly to be 
evil that the horror of evil is the strongest repulsion 
of his nature. It is not too much to say that he cannot 
abruptly throw himself into the lap of wickedness. But 
this inability is not a privation of freedom in any sense 
in which freedom is valuable. Freedom is naught, ex 
cept it be riddance of something bad. To be rid of an 
indifferent thing is no gain: to be rid of a good thing 
is a loss. Deliver us from evil is the prayer which we 
are taught to offer for freedom. 

The evil that haunts the region of the intellect is 
ignorance, uncertainty and error. A free mind, then, 
is a mind endowed with a sure knowledge of truth. 
In one way such a mind is not free: it is restrained 
from doubt and delusion: it has surrendered to evi 
dence, and evidence holds it captive. In the region of 
the will dwells the evil of folly. From that the wise 
man is delivered in so far as he has compassed wisdom. 
The wiser he grows, the more nearly impossible it be 
comes for him to do a foolish thing. The one right 
course to take in every perplexity shines luminously 



JOHN LOCKE in 

before him. So schooled are his eyes to discern the 
beauty of that light that he will not, and scarcely can, 
diverge into the fenny quagmires where the ignis fa- 
tuus gleams. Is not that a happy impotence, snatching 
his soul from death and his feet from stumbling? 
I Yeedman now of truth and goodness, finds he aught to 
envy in the licentious rovings of the runaway slave? 
It is well, in conclusion, to remark that the blissful 
dependence of a believer upon truth, and of a just 
man upon righteousness, is not entered upon without 
free ads of the will. He alone holds any high practi 
cal truth securely who has grasped it resolutely. He 
alone has any sort of gulf fixed in this world between 
his will and sin, who in many a circumstance of temp 
tation has had the power to transgress, and has not 
transgressed, and the power to do evil and has not 
done it. 



DAVID HUME 



DAVID HUME 

An Inquiry concerning Human Understanding 
Section VIII. Of Liberty and Necessity 

I 

M this circumstance alone that a controversy 
has been long kept on foot, and remains still un 
decided, we may presume that there is some ambi 
guity in the expression, and that the disputants affix 
different ideas to the terms employed in the contro 
versy. . . This has been the case in the long disputed 
question concerning liberty and necessity. . . I hope, 
therefore, to make it appear that all men have ever 
agreed in the doctrine both of necessity and of liberty, 
according to any reasonable sense which can be put 
on those terms; and that the whole controversy has 
turned hitherto upon words." 

We hear in this passage the echo of Locke s vehe 
ment denunciation of words ill understood, as the 
sources whence most disputes in philosophy spring. 
But there is yet another fountain-head, whence con 
tention issues in still greater volume. Many differ 
ences amongst philosophers are traceable to words ill 
understood, but many more to different aims in life 
chosen and pursued. For philosophy is not a bare 
speculation; it involves practice. From philosophy are 
derived the laws of conduct. 

The freedom of the will, if free it be, is a pragmatic 
consideration for us all. It is a summons to responsi- 



n6 FREE WILL 

bility, to merit or demerit, to exertion, to fighting, to 
victory or defeat. It means that we are not embarked 
as otiose passengers, but we must work our passage 
through life, and we shall drift to shipwreck if we will 
not work. Though the LORD is our light and our sal 
vation, we need to follow the light in order to attain 
salvation. When we have wilfully loved darkness and 
gone astray, the hope of reaching our destined end dies 
down in our breasts; we become uneasy and repine at 
our misconduct, which is exactly the frame of mind 
wherein a man would gladly hear that there is no 
free will, and consequently no ground for remorse, no 
sin. Let the advocates of necessarianism consider what 
a source of prejudice is here arrayed on their side. Then 
they will be less hasty in giving judgement that con 
sciousness does not witness to freedom, and that, apart 
from misunderstandings of language, all mankind are 
necessarians. Qui bono fait? Whose interest is it to 
figure as one necessitated in all his actions ? 

To form a rough guess whether a contradiction be 
tween two philosophers is real or verbal, it is well 
to look whether the two men agree in their practice. 
If they do, there is reason to hope that their specula 
tions are not really at variance, and that they might be 
brought to manifest harmony by mutual explanation 
and definition of terms. But where one disputant takes 
one line of action, and his opponent acts just the re 
verse way, there is indication of a conflict of thought, 
which may be aggravated rather than appeased by a 
removal of ambiguity of expression. 



DAVID HUME 117 

II 

"It seems evident that if all the scenes of nature 
were continually shifted in such a manner that no two 
events bore any resemblance to each other, but every 
object was entirely new, without any similitude to what 
ever had been seen before, we should never in that case 
have attained the least idea of necessity, or of a con 
nexion among these objects. We might say, upon such 
a supposition, that one object or event has followed 
another; not that one was produced by another. The 
relation of cause and effect must be utterly unknown 
to mankind. Inference and reasoning concerning the 
operations of nature would from that moment be at 
an end; and the memory and senses remain the only 
channels by which the knowledge of any real existence 
could possibly have access to the mind. Our idea there 
fore of necessity and causation arises entirely from the 
uniformity observable in the operations of nature, where 
similar objects are constantly conjoined together, and 
the mind is determined by custom to infer the one 
from the appearance of the other. These two circum 
stances form the whole of that necessity which we ascribe 
to matter. Beyond the constant conjunction of similar 
objects, and the consequent inference from one to the 
other, we have no notion of any necessity or connexion. 
If it appear, therefore, that all mankind have ever al 
lowed, without any doubt or hesitation, that these two 
circumstances take place in the voluntary actions of 
men and in the operations of mind, it must follow 
that all mankind have ever agreed in the doctrine of 
necessity, and that they have hitherto disputed merely 
for not understanding each other." 

However irregularly the scenes nf nature were shit- 



n8 FREE WILL 

ted, still I think we should not fail to attain some idea 
of Jiecjsssitvj nay, I am not sure that the idea would 
not be imprinted upon us even more vividly than it 
is now. Suppose that, when a man rose in the morn 
ing, the floor of his bedroom at first felt like thistles 
and cut his feet: the moment after it was like smooth 
glass: then it became a bog, and then a snowfield: sup 
pose that the water with which he tried to wash turned 
to ink, and then to treacle, and then to oil of vitriol; 
that the soap burnt his skin and then gilt it; that his 
stature grew and shrank through all sizes between 
three feet and thirty; that he took by turns the shape 
of every animal in the Zoological Gardens; and that 
changes like these befell him all the days of his life 
without any regularity of recurrence; still, I am apt 
to reckon, if he preserved his personal identity, and 
remained conscious to himself of an enduring self or 
ego, he might attain an idea of necessity, clear and 
distinct to a degree. For he would live under per 
petual constraint. Nature is a stubborn thing for any 
of us to deal with. Yet we know something of her ways 
and observances, and can arrange our plans according 
to them. The man I am supposing would desire and 
contrive as we do, but, with the protean instruments 
supplied to his hands, he would be for ever failing of 
his purpose. Then he would understand what " I can 
not " meant. And what else is it to say, " I cannot," but 
to say, "Necessity is upon me"? "1 cannot speak," 
that is, "I am under a necessity of silence"; "I can 
not help it," that is, " I needs must suffer it." We feel 
the pressure of necessity when we realise the limita- 



DAVID HUME 119 

tion of our being and ability. Now what would a man 
find himself able to do in a universe where law reigned 
not ? When he hit upon an action that suited his pur 
pose, he would try it again, but the same means might 
not serve him another time. Then he would desire, 
and desire in vain : so necessity would make herself 
felt upon him. Who so necessitous as the impotent ? 

The state of chaotic irregularity, which we imagined 
for example s sake, was taken by Plato and his followers 
to have been the actual state of the universe of matter, 
before the supreme mind subjected it to law and uni 
formity. "In those days," says Plato, "nothing had 
any order except by accident, nor did anything at all 
deserve to bear any of the names that now are used, 
such zsfire, water, and the names of the other elements. 
All this chaos the Artificer first sorted out and made 
into a cosmos, and then out of it He constituted the 
present universe."* And again: "God, finding the 
whole visible universe not at rest, but moving in an 
unharmonious and disorderly manner, reduced it from 
disorder to order." f Now the name which the Plato- 
nists gave to the primitive principle of capriciousness, 
irregularity, inconstancy, and variation in nature, was 
this very name of ava-y/o/, or necessity. Once more the 
great founder of the school: "The universe is a com 
pound, the result of a union of necessity and mind. . . 
We must distinguish two sorts of causes, the one 
necessary and the other divine."J It is usual to iden 
tify freedom with caprice, and necessity with uni 
formity. But a little consideration will show the reason 
* Plato, Timaui, 69. t Id. ib. 30. \ Id. ib. 48, 68. 



120 FREE WILL 

that there was on Plato s side. It is essential to free will 
that two men in the same situation should not inevi 
tably make the same choice. Yet if both are equally 
wise, and both choose for the best, they will in point 
of fad often choose the same; for frequently there is 
one best course evident to intelligence. Plato supposed 
that nature was uniform, in so far as it was swayed by 
the divine Mind for the best. On the other hand, 
where there is no mind and no appreciation of good 
ness, things will fall out blindly, capriciously, irregu 
larly, or, as the Platonist said, by force of necessity, 
by brute force, the vis consili expcrs of Horace. The 
Greeks called that "necessity" against which human 
contrivance was powerless. Now if nature were not 
anywhere uniform, human contrivance would be 
powerless everywhere. 

We might then have an idea of necessity, even 
though nature were not uniform. But nature is uni 
form. Is then Hume right in saying that "our idea of 
necessity and causation arises entirely from the uni 
formity observable in the operations of nature"? 
What is our idea of necessity, according to Sume? 
He assigns two notes to that idea, "the constant con 
junction of similar objects and the consequent infe 
rence from one to the other." Uniform conjunction 
prompting inference makes necessity, says Hume. 
Happily for mankind, Hume is wrong. Happily for 
mankind, I say: for were this analysis correct, it would 
be a bar to all progress in the arts of life, and to all 
amelioration of man s life on earth consequent upon 
such progress. Let us consider for example the pro- 



DAVID HUME 121 

gress of surgery. Fifty years ago certain injuries were 
uniformly conjoined with death, and death might be 
inferred from the receiving of such injuries. If sur 
geons had been guided by Hume, they would have 
acquiesced in the necessity of death in such cases; they 
would have avowed the impossibility of cure, and, says 
Aristotle, "When the impossible is come upon, men 
desist."* But enterprising and inventive men took 
another course. "True," they said, "in the past people 
always have died of these injuries, but that is no reason 
why they always should die: what always has been, 
need not be: past uniformity does not make necessity." 
They tried new conditions, novel treatment, extra 
precautions, and patients recovered. The necessary 
then is not what always has been, but what in the na 
ture of things must be: 



Necessity is not constant conjunction, but implication. 
"For a l On|UflftiOfi flm,flways is, belongs to the 

actual order of fact; but a conjunction that must be, 
appertains to the ideal order of possibility.^ and B 
may ever coexist, as rue earth ana moon coexist, and 
yet the idea of one does not include the idea of the 
other: they may be separated in thought, though in 
fact they will not be separated: their separation is an 
intelligible hypothesis. On the other hand, were A and 
B necessarily connected, the having them apart would 
be a contradiction in terms: A without B would not 
be A, and B without A would not be B, the one 
supposing the other. No conceivable arrangement then 
could separate the two. 

* Etb. Nic. i. 



122 FREE WILL 

Such is the necessary connexion between a natural 
effect and the causes that lead to it. When any material 
agent acts, the action absolutely must be as it is. Not 
only does the moon always draw after it the tidal wave, 
it cannot do otherwise than draw it. For the moon and 
the earth to be as they are without interference, and 
yet for there to be no tide, is an hypothesis that can 
not be expressed without simultaneous assertion and 
denial of the nature of the two bodies. As the hypo 
thesis is self-contradictory, so is the thing absolutely 
impossible. Of course an arrangementmight be devised 
to prevent the tides, but that would not be the present 
arrangement. GOD Himself, if He wished the tide not 
to rise, would not leave things exactly as they are, 
without altering or adding to the forces now in opera 
tion. As things stand, supposing no change in their 
position, and no new force, natural or preternatural, 
brought to bear, the tide must rise, it cannot but rise, 
it rises not only invariably and uniformly, but of a 
necessity. 

By { necessary therefore I understand that which can 
not but be. I proceed to examine whence this notion is 
derived. It is not gathered from the study of external 
nature alone, for, as Hume strongly urges, the utmost 
which that study directly and by itself teaches is that 
which always is. If all our knowledge was got by look 
ing outside of ourselves, I doubt whether we should 
have any idea of necessity, or of active causation, or 
even of being. Hume in this argumentation tacitly 
assumes that our knowledge is entirely procured by 
looking outwards. On the unsound support of that 



DAVID HUME 123 

assumption the whole weight of his reasoning rests. 
Let me repeat his words. He says that if nature were 
not uniform, "inference and reasoning concerning the 
operations of nature would from that moment be at 
an end, and the memory and senses remain the only 
channels by which the knowledge of any real exis 
tence could possibly have access to the mind." Whence 
I gather that under present conditions, where nature is 
uniform, the only channels by which the knowledge of 
any real existence can possibly have access to the 
mind are the senses, the memory, and inferences and 
reasoning concerning the operations of nature. The 
senses, I presume, convey to us impressions of 
what is outside of us, the memory reinstates those 
impressions, and the reason sorts and arranges them, 
like with like. Meanwhile, what is become of ourselves ? 
Have we no knowledge of ourselves? or is self-con 
sciousness a sensation, of what sense? Do we see or 
hear or taste or smell self, or feel self with the sensory 
papill<e of our fingers, or is the ego an organic sensa 
tion like a stomach-ache, or a feeling of expanded 
muscular energy such as a mower feels in cutting a 
swathe? Or perhaps we remember ourselves. But how 
can we remember that which we have not first appre 
hended? And if self is not any operation of nature, and 
our reasoning is only about operations of nature, I 
am at a loss to conceive how we can attain to a 
reasoned knowledge of self. And yet somehow we do 
know self. We could not make / the subject of so 
many certain asseverations, if / were an unknown 
quantity or a meaningless name. But how the mean- 



i2 4 FREE WILL 

ing is discovered in Hume s detail of the mental 

powers does not appear. 

Therefore, besides memory and the senses and 
reasoning about nature, we must mention self-con 
sciousness as another "canal" by which "the know 
ledge of real existence" has "access to the mind." It 
is along this canal, if I mistake not, that the idea of 
necessity travels most of its way. The following are 
utterances of consciousness: / am, I do, I can, I can 
not, I cannot but. In all these instances we have self 
speaking to self on the present state of self. It is not 
maintained that these truths of consciousness are re 
cognised antecedently to all experience. However it 
may be with pure spirits, in man certainly the ego is 
not adverted to as a being and a power till after many 
a feeling has entered in at the gates of the senses. Nor 
are we aware of what we can do and what we cannot 
before we have tried. But when we try and the effort 
is in vain, in that position we are conscious of inability, 
and we know that there are changes which we cannot 
bring about. When we cannot bring about a change, 
we are fain to let things remain as they are. Thus we 
are conscious oil cannot but, that is, I must, lam under 
a necessity. From / must the transition is easy to you 
must, he must, it must. Here is the idea of necessity 
arrived at by means of consciousness of self, working 
concomitantly with experience of nature; in other 
words, by the measurement of self against nature. 
The uniformity of nature is irrelevant to this process. 
Were nature a disorderly flux of changes, supposing 
self to be constant, we should still battle against the 



DAVID HUME 125 

external chaos, and still appreciate I cannot and / must. 
Of course, if self were fluxional likewise, we should 
not gather the idea of necessity. But neither should 
we gather any other idea, for there would be an end 
of us. 

We learn to pronounce brute nature necessitated 
by marking it off from and contrasting it with our 
own intelligent and free selves. 

Ill 

" It is universally acknowledged that there is a great 
uniformity among the actions of men in all nations 
and ages, and that human nature remains the same in 
its principles and operations. . . Nor are the earth, 
water, and other elements examined by Aristotle and 
Hippocrates, more like to those which at present lie 
under our observation, than the men, described by 
Polybius and Tacitus, are to those who now govern 
the world. . . We must not, however, expect that this 
uniformity of human actions should be carried to such 
a length, as that all men in the same circumstances 
will always act precisely in the same manner, without 
making any allowance for the diversity of characters, 
prejudices and opinions. Such a uniformity in every 
particular is found in no part of nature. Thus, for in 
stance, in the human body, when the usual symptoms 
of health or sickness disappoint our expectations; when 
medicines operate not with their wonted power; when 
irregular events follow from any particular cause; the 
philosopher and physician are not surprised at the mat 
ter, nor are ever tempted to deny in general the neces 
sity and uniformity of those principles by which the 
animal economy is conducted. They know that a human 
body is a mighty complicated machine, that many secret 



126 FREE WILL 

powers lurk in it which are altogether beyond our 
comprehension, that to us it must often appear very 
uncertain in its operations, and that, therefore, the 
irregular events which outwardly discover themselves 
can be no proof that the laws of nature are not ob 
served with the greatest regularity in its internal 
operations and government. The philosopher, if he be 
consistent, must apply the same reasoning to the 
actions and volitions of intelligent agents." 

Hume s argument forms a syllogism to this effect: 
Necessity is the constant conjunction of similar objects, 
and the consequent possibility of inference from one 
to the other: but such a conjunction and potential 
inference obtains in human volition: necessity, there 
fore, obtains in human volition. The major premiss 
of this syllogism I have combated in the previous 
section. I have now to consider the minor, in proof 
whereof Hume alleges this fact, that human, nature is 
the same in all ages, a fact not wholly unquestioned 
by the modern anthropologist. "Ambition, avarice, 
self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit, 
these passions," says our author, "mixed in various 
degrees and distributed through society, have been, 
from the beginning of the world, and still are, the 
sources of all the actions and enterprises which have 
ever been observed among mankind." Suppose that 
this enumeration of human motives is complete, it 
follows that men have the same sort of inducements 
to action now as they had three thousand years ago: 
it does not follow that the same inducement uniformly 
begets the same action. Plato tells of an Athenian 



DAVID HUME 127 

citizen, who taking a walk along the wall that joined 
Athens with the Piraeus, came to the place where the 
bodies of criminals were exposed to public view after 
death. Curiosity impelled him to go and have a look; 
and, on the other hand, respect for self and for huma 
nity, that peculiar feeling which the Greeks call ai&oc, 
prompted him to avert his gaze and pass by. At last 
he stretched his eyes wide open with his hands, and 
rushed to see the sight, saying to his eyes: "There 
now, ye wretches, take your fill of the fair spectacle." 
An Englishman, placed to-day in the like circum 
stances, would likewise be attracted by curiosity and 
repelled by aiSwc : his character in all essential points 
might resemble that Athenian s. But that he would 
act in the same way, and that every one else, similarly 
circumstanced and disposed, would do the like, is an 
assumption that requires proof, other proof than the 
mere showing that they would all have the same in 
ducements for action. 

An inducement is a motive upon which a person 
may act. If the motive is strong, he probably will act 
upon it. If it is overpowering, he must act upon it. 
We observe motives of various degrees of strength 
influencing men. We can estimate, more or less accu 
rately, the power of a certain motive in a certain mind; 
and often we can decrease or diminish it to serve our 
purpose. Thus far the actions of our fellow-men are 
submitted to our calculation and control. Society could 
not go on otherwise. But that this calculation is always 
certain, and this control in every respect entire, is a 
position that no necessarian has dared to maintain. 



i 2 8 FREE WILL 

Necessarians undertake to show why volitions arc not 
as amenable to our calculation as eclipses, and on the 
supposition that volitions are in themselves as calcu 
lable as eclipses, their explanation is excellent. But since 
the absolute calculability of volitions is just the point in 
dispute, their argument falls under that frequently 
employed form called petitio principn, in which the 
defects of the premisses are made good by begging what 
should have been proved. From the fact that men are 
influenced by motives, it follows that human actions 
can be calculated to a certain extent; and so experience 
shows that they can. From the libertarian doctrine that 
men are not necessitated by motives, it follows that 
human actions cannot be calculated with universal 
certainty: neither is there any experience of any such 
certain and universal calculation. It appears that ex 
perience so far squares well with libertarian conclu 
sions. No evidence for necessarianism can be got from 
theorising upon facts which are just as well explained 
on the hypothesis of free will. 

But I am told that the success hitherto attained in 
calculating human action forms only a fragment of the 
proof of necessarianism, and cannot fairly be criticised 
apart from the main argument. That argument runs 
as follows: Where we have been able to get data and 
to handle them, our calculations have never failed: we 
have had experience of this in a sufficient number of 
instances to warrant an induction, to the effect that 
all results are calculable, given the data and the calcu 
lating power: we find the volitions of men calculable 
to some extent, which is so far in our favour, and on 



DAVID HUME 129 

the strength of the above-mentioned induction we 
declare that the exceeding multitude and variety of 
the antecedents to volition alone prevents us from 
determining accurately in all cases the result which 
uniformly and necessarily follows. This argument is 
confirmed by the example of the weather. In the pre 
sent state of knowledge, the weather is in some ways 
less predictable than the actions of men: so that when 
a man is unusually wayWard and unreliable we call 
him a weathercock. A whimsical observer might thence 
take occasion to assert free wind and free sunshine: 
and he might show that his theory suited meteoro 
logical facts quite as well as did the supposition of an 
undiscovered uniformity.* Yet even the defenders of 
free will avow that the assertion of free weather is 
utterly demolished by the force of the induction already 
stated. Is not this confession a virtual surrender of 
the libertarian position ? Or take the instance which 
Hume cites, of a disease which baffles the calculations 
of the physicians. They do not jump to the conclusion 
that the patient is afflicted by a free agency. A medical 
man has had sufficient experience of nature to put 
faith in the uniformity of her operations, even when 
it is not apparent to his eyes. Outward irregularity is 
to him no argument of the absence of inward law, for 
he knows that "a human body is a mighty complicated 
machine." Should not the psychologist reason as the 
physician? Is not the human mind also "a mighty 
complicated machine" ? Why should volition be frcc_ 

* Room is left for the theory that the weather is subject to occa 
sional angelic interference. 

9 



1 30 FREE WILL 

any more than the plague of Athens or the earthquake 
of Lisbon ? 

In brief, I rejoin that volition is free because it is 
the act of a mind, and a mind is not a machine. Let 
us take the induction that is alleged against free will, 
and try it by the canons of sound inductive proof laid 
down by Mill. The argument before us is one of the 
sort which Bacon and Mill call "induction by simple 
enumeration," where a law is proved by mere accu 
mulation of instances. In that case, it is important that 
the generalisation should not be extended to regions 
where the circumstances are unlike those in the midst 
of which the uniformity has been observed to obtain. 
Thus from the fact that Roman Catholicism has at no 
date hitherto been the only religion professed by men, 
it would be rash to pronounce without further study 
that Roman Catholicism will not be the only religion 
on earth ten thousand years hence. We cannot fore 
tell with anything like precision that a child, when he 
is grown up, will be as we have known him in child 
hood. The success of a form of government in Eng 
land is not a sufficient guarantee of its succeeding in 
Italy. The constitution under which we live and pro 
sper, as our fathers before us, may not suit the temper 
of our grandchildren. When a certain fact has been 
noticed over and over again attending another fact, 
the appearance of one becomes a sign of the other. 
But if a third fact, momentous and novel, appears 
upon the scene, the sign may be at fault, and it would 
be imprudent to rely upon it, till fresh experience has 
been procured of the altered state of things, or a bring- 



DAVID HUME 131 

ing to bear of previous knowledge has shown that the 
new circumstance has not affected the character of the 
sign. To apply this maxim to the case in question. 
Wherever we have been able to get data, say the neces 
sarians, or uniformists, if they prefer that name, 
wherever we have been able to get data, which have 
not baffled us by their detail, we have calculated the 
resultant action unerringly: therefore all actions might 
be surely deduced from their antecedent causes, sup 
posing a completeness of data and a competent calcu 
lating power: therefore, as the movements of a system 
of weights and pulleys, so might the volitions of man 
be rigidly calculated from their causes, which are the 
motives and previous dispositions of the person. But, 
I rejoin, there is one condition of deep significance 
attaching to the operations of intelligent mind, and not 
to the operations of matter. This condition, in the 
libertarian view, renders the action of intelligence a 
phenomenon sui generis, specifically distinct from the 
phenomena of mechanics, chemistry, biology, and even 
of mere sensation and animal impulse. This condition 
is the foundation of free will. In virtue of the pre 
sence of this condition it is maintained that the num 
ber of instances which would suffice for an induction 
in the grosser region of matter is not sufficient in the 
finer domain of intelligence. The condition in ques 
tion is reflex consciousness, or the power of adverting 
to one s own mental states and recognising one s own 
actions as one s own. 

If anyone is still disposed to carry on the induc 
tion from matter to mind, let him hear the eloquent 



132 FREE WILL 

language of Ferrier, speaking of "the great and ano 
malous fad of human consciousness," an anomaly 
sufficient to dissipate all surprise at what Bain is 
pleased to call the " enormous theoretical difficulty," 
the "metaphysical deadlock," the "puzzle and para 
dox of the first degree," the " inextricable knot " of 
freewill.* I must premise that by " consciousness " 
Ferrier means not direct but reflex consciousness, or 
self-consciousness, or what I have termed " adver 
tence." 

"And truly this fact is well worthy of our regard, 
and one which will worthily reward our pains. It is a 
fact of most surpassing wonder; a fact prolific in sub 
lime results. Standing aloof as much as possible from 
our acquired and inveterate habits of thought; divest 
ing ourselves as much as possible of our natural pre 
possessions, and of that familiarity which has blunted 
the edge of astonishment, let us consider what we 
know to be the fact, namely, that existence, combined 
with intelligence [?] and passion in many instances, 
but unaccompanied by any other fact, is the general 
rule of creation. Knowing this, would it not be but an 
easy step for us to conclude that it is also the universal 
rule of creation ? and would not such a conclusion be 
a step naturally taken ? Finding this, and nothing 
more than this, to be the great fact * in heaven and 
on earth, and in the waters under the earth, would 
it not be rational to conclude that it admitted of no 
exception ? Such, certainly, would be the natural infer 
ence, and in it there would be nothing at all surprising. 
But suppose that when it was on the point of being 
drawn, there suddenly, and for the first time, started 
*The Emotions and the Will, p. 493. 



DAVID HUME 133 

up in a single Being a fact at variance with this whole 
analogy of creation, and contradicting this otherwise 
universal rule; we ask. Would not this be a fact attrac 
tive and wonderful indeed ? Would not every attempt 
to bring this Being under the great general law of the 
universe be at once, and most properly, abandoned ? 
Would not this new fact be held exclusively worthy 
of scientific consideration, as the feature which dis 
tinguished its possessor with the utmost clearness from 
all other creatures, and as that which would be sure 
to lead the observer to a knowledge of the true and 
essential character of the being manifesting it ? Would 
not, in fine, a world entirely new be here opened up 
to research ? And now, if we would really behold such 
a fact, we have but to turn to ourselves and ponder 
over the fact of consciousness; for consciousness is 
precisely that marvellous, that unexampled fact which 
we have been here supposing and shadowing forth. "* 

IV 

"And indeed, when we consider how aptly natural 
and moral evidence link together and form only one 
chain of argument, we shall make no scruple to 
allow that they are of the same nature and derived 
from the same principles. A prisoner, who has neither 
money nor interest, discovers the impossibility of his 
escape, as well when he considers the obstinacy of the 
gaoler, as the walls and bars with which he is sur 
rounded; and, in all attempts for his freedom, chooses 
rather to work upon the stone and iron of the one 
than upon the inflexible nature of the other. The same 
prisoner, when conducted to the scaffold, foresees his 
death as certainly from the constancy and fidelity of 
his guards, as from the operation of the axe or wheel. 
Ferrier s Remains, vol. n, pp. 87, 88. 



134 FREE WILL 

His mind runs along a certain train of ideas: the refu 
sal of the soldiers to consent to his escape; the action 
of the executioner; the separation of the head and body; 
bleeding, convulsive motions and death. Here is a con 
nected chain of natural causes and voluntary actions; 
but the mind feels no difference between them in pas- 
ing from one link to another, nor is less certain of the 
future event than if it were connected with the objects 
present to the memory or senses by a train of causes 
cemented together by what we are pleased to call a 
physical necessity. ... A man who at noon leaves his 
purse full of gold on the pavement at Charing Cross, 
may as well expect that it will fly away like a feather, 
as that he will find it untouched an hour after. About 
one half of human reasonings contain inferences of a 
similar nature." 

Here is further proof of the minor premiss of the 
syllogism which was put forward in the previous sec 
tion. I admit, of course, that human behaviour is fre 
quently matter of inference. The admission in noway 
militates against free will, as may appear by the enun 
ciation of two simple principles, which I call the 
principle of habitual volition and the principle of 
averages. A word upon each. 

The principle of habitual volition may be stated 
thus: a person who has his mind already made up to 
do a thing, need not make it up afresh when the mo 
ment for action comes. It is enough that he clings to 
his habitual purpose; to which, if it is firm, and espe 
cially if it has been frequently carried out in deed, he 
will cling, unless some novel and extraordinary mo 
tive arise to deter him. If, therefore, we know that a 



DAVID HUME 135 

person has made up his mind, and has no special mo 
tive for unmaking it, we may reckon, with more or 
less probability according to the circumstances of the 
case, that he will acl: up to his resolve. This may be 
most confidently anticipated, when a number of men 
are publicly pledged to a common course of external 
behaviour: for there the force of example operates to 
prevent individual defection. 

Thus the gaoler, that Hume speaks of, has deter- 
termined not to let his prisoners escape. He did that 
when he first entered into office, and long practice has 
confirmed him in his determination. It is now a mat 
ter of course with him to keep men in prison. He 
never thinks of doing otherwise, except in extraordi 
nary circumstances. As the prisoner in this case " has 
neither money nor interest," his circumstances are not 
extraordinary. The gaoler in guarding him does not 
form a new acl: of will: his will is fixed already, and 
takes effecl: accordingly, there being nothing to unfix it. 
When in the beginning he undertook the charge of 
prisoners, he did specially will to keep them, and that 
volition was free. His detention of this prisoner, the 
three-hundredth perhaps that he has lodged, is a 
sequel to that volition, and may be reckoned surely to 
follow from such an antecedent in the absence of un 
common motives. The case is the same with the sol 
diers on guard at the execution. They, too, are acting 
out a previous resolution, which they have no temp- 
tion to break. Military discipline largely consists in 
an acquired readiness to acl automatically. But though 
their performance of military duty in ordinary cases 



136 FREE WILL 

may be presumed from the fact of their being in the 
army, disciplined to obey, and moving as one man 
under the binding spell of sympathy and example, yet 
their being in that state is the result of ads of indivi 
dual volunteering and free choice, which could not be 
calculated. 

I pass to the enunciation of the second principle, 
the principle of averages. 

When from a knowledge of motives we can form 
a probable anticipation of the behaviour of every in 
dividual out of a large body, we possess a practically 
certain foreknowledge of the behaviour of the genera 
lity, which certitude becomes more indefectible as the 
body is more numerous. 

This is the foundation principle of the sciences of 
human action. The statesman and the public econo 
mist are not concerned to decide what this or that 
particular man will do; their concern lies with the be- 
haviour of the masses. Of them they can be sure: of 
the individual they cannot, and care not to be. I bring 
an example, which I single out because it has been 
urged as irreconcilable with any theory of free will.* 
Suppose the building trade becomes more lucrative 
than the rest, at once it draws capital from the other 
trades, until the equilibrium of profits is restored. This 
occurrence may be looked for as confidently as the 
motion of water to its level, though the latter is a phy 
sical and the former a moral phenomenon. Still no just 
suspicion is cast on the free will of the capitalist, who 

* By Bain, Smotions and Will, p. 495, quoting from Samue 
Bailey. 



DAVID HUME 137 

rushes into bricks and mortar. The determination to 
turn builder is not absolutely calculable in the case 
of an individual speculator. But it is calculable for the 
generality, on the principle of averages, without pre 
judice to the freedom of the individual. 

When this formidable instance has been met, the 
purse at Charing Cross presents little difficulty. I should 
be loth to leave any purse of mine in so exposed a 
situation, except on the motive which Diogenes had 
in throwing his money into the sea, to get rid of it. 
The speedy removal of such a purse is certain. The 
police have their instructions in such cases; and need, 
greed, or curiosity might necessitate some wills. But 
the removal might be accounted for without allowing 
that any will was necessitated thereto. The first passer 
by, that was not a philosopher, would feel a violent 
inclination to take the purse, and probably would take 
it. Probability always conquers in the long run; and 
here, with the probability so high, there would be no 
long run. 

V 

" It would seem indeed that men begin at the wrong 
end of this question concerning liberty and necessity, 
when they enter upon it by examining the faculties of 
the soul, the influence of the understanding, and the 
operations of the will. Let them first discuss a more 
simple question, namely, the operations of body and of 
brute unintelligent matter." 

If man were not a person, he would not be free. Bv^ 

u person 1 mean a being who realises in consciousness 
that which is expressed in language by the first per- 



138 FREE WILL 

sonal pronoun, the English I. That act of conscious 
ness is the fountain-head of liberty. It is wanting in 
brute animals, and freedom is not in them. It might 
have been also wanting in the paragon of animals. 
Without self-consciousness man might not indeed have 
formed general concepts, or spoken rational language; 
but he could have constructed steam-engines, and laid 
down railways, and reared palaces for hotels, and 
piloted floating cities through the ocean. He might have 
done these things as the bee builds her honeycomb and 
the beaver his dam without knowing on what principle 
they were done, or reflecting on himself as the doer of 
them. Let only instinct of the same kind that guides 
the beaver and the bee be given in fuller measure to 
man, and the material triumphs of which this age is so 
proud might all be achieved, without intelligence or 
language, without self-consciousness or free will, by 
beings in an everlasting state of infancy, not knowing 
the difference between good and evil, between their 
right hand and their left. Moreover, a utilitarian kind 
of morality might be established among such subli 
mated beavers. When Beaverman A, prompted by glut 
tony, in the course of the uniform sequence of action 
upon motive, partook of more meat and drink than 
was consistent with the good of united Beaverdom, 
the rest of the beaver brotherhood, alike obedient to 
their motives, might muzzle their greedy kinsman for 
a while, or draw one of his teeth, or otherwise pain him, 
so that the recollection of what he had suffered should 
counterpoise his appetite in the next temptation. It is 
true that actual mankind do the like of this, when 



DAVID HUME 139 

they lock up a drunkard or whip a garrotter. It is true 
that the bees on Hymettus built in some respects as 
well as the men on the Acropolis. It is true, but it is 
not the whole truth. The vice of the phenomenal, uni- 
formist,or positive philosophy lies not so much in what 
it affirms as in what it denies or overlooks. Thus it lays 
stress on points of agreement between man and brute, 
and slurs over what is much more important and valu 
able, the points of contrast. Abstraction, language, self- 
consciousness, these facts have slight justice done them 
by positivist observers. One might think that the 
school was so named because they posit the facts that 
suit them, and suppress whatever their philosophy is 
incompetent to explain. Else they might have con 
sidered that, when man is punished, not only is physi 
cal pain inflicted, as in the beating of a horse, but also 
a moral reproach is cast, a stigma and brand of guilt. 
Also, in comparing the doings of brute animals with the 
doings of men, they might have contrived to escape a 
little while from the cloud of anecdote, and examine in 
the serenity of their own hearts how men act with 
consciousness of themselves as authors of their action; 
thence they might have gone back to inquire of the 
brutes whether they too possessed self-consciousness, 
and whether there was any grunt of a pig, or bark of 
a dog, or neigh of a horse, or other cry of any brute 
animal whatsoever, that could be taken to mean I know 
what I am doing. 

The dependence of free will on personality has been 
often declared. A number of my companions go to a 
place: I feel ashamed to be left behind: so I am dis- 



HO FREE WILL 

posed to go too. So far my state of mind involves no 
personal or free aft. If the willing process in me were 
completed there, as it is completed in other gregarious 
animals, I could not help going, I must needsgo : liberty 
to do otherwise would be out of the question. But I 
advert to my disposition, and in that advertence of self 
to self, in that conscious personal ad, my liberty begins. 
In the light of this explanation let us view the sug 
gestion of Hume, that men begin at the wrong end of 
the question of liberty when they enter upon it by an 
examination of the soul, the understandingand the will, 
without a previous study of body and brute matter. 
I remark that, though Hume speaks of beginning with 
matter, his reasoning not only begins with matter but 
ends there. He asserts certain fads and lays down cer 
tain laws about the operations of brute agents, and thence 
proceeds to extend those laws to intelligent agents, as 
though there were no new fads in the case. Is intelli 
gence a fad so attenuated and insignificant that no proof 
even of its insignificance is required? Ama valde intel- 
lettum, is St Augustine s advice: the sceptic Hume will 
not throw on intelligence even a passing glance, and 
that where the inquiry lies concerning the mode of 
adion of an intelligent being. First appearances con 
demn such inattention to fad: the subsequent disco 
very that the fad so negleded is the cardinal point of 
the case, excludes the argument from further hearing. 
The operations of body and of brute unintelligent 
matter may be the right end to begin at in this ques 
tion of liberty and necessity, but assuredly it is the 
wrong end to stop at. 



DAVID HUME 141 

In a good course of education the science of matter 
is taught before the science of mind. Youths should 
learn something of geometry, mechanics, astronomy, 
chemistry and physiology, before advancing to psy 
chology and metaphysics. The very derivation of the 
name "metaphysics," ;ra TO ^wruca, points to this 
procedure. The rule is to proceed from the more 
simple to the more complex. In this order, geometry 
superadds extension to the number that was treated of 
in arithmetic: mechanics superadd force upon exten 
sion: astronomy contemplates a particular disposition 
of forces: chemistry superadds upon force that which 
is known as chemical combination; and physiology 
upon chemical combination superadds life. And be 
yond physiology ranks psychology, the object-matter 
of which is not simply a living organism but a con 
scious mind. This being the order of precedence in 
time amongst the sciences, a student would defeat the 
end for which that orderis framed, if his mind refused to 
take on new facts in his progress from science to science. 
Suppose in mechanics he would attend to nothing but 
extension, without regard to force, which of the phe 
nomena of motion could he investigate to any pur 
pose ? Could he, on grounds on pure geometry, arbi 
trate the difference between Newton and Descartes as 
to the motor power in the heavens ? Could he discuss 
spontaneous generation on mechanical principles ? Me 
chanical, or even chemical, biology is looked upon un 
favourably by good judges of science. What, therefore, 
should be thought of a mechanical, unconscious, imper 
sonal psychology, and physical renderings of moral 



1 42 FREE WILL 

action ? Such explanations are at best incomplete; and 
when they profess completeness, they become positively 
erroneous. 

VI 

"The necessity of any action, whether of matter or 
of mind, is not, properly speaking, a quality in the 
agent, but in any thinking or intelligent being who may 
consider the action; and it consists chiefly in the de 
termination of his thoughts to infer the existence ot 
that action from some preceding objects; as liberty, 
when opposed to necessity, is nothing but the want of 
that determination, and a certain looseness or indiffe 
rence which we feel in passing or not passing from the 
idea of one object to that of any succeeding one. Now 
we may observe that, though, in reflecting on human 
actions, we seldom feel such a looseness or indifference, 
but are commonly able to infer them with considerable 
certainty from their motives, and from the dispositions 
of the agent; yet it frequently happens that, in per 
forming the actions themselves, we are sensible of 
something like it: and as all resembling objects are 
readily taken for each other, this has been employed 
as a demonstrative and even intuitive proof of human 
liberty." 

With the exception of some volitions of men and 
angels, all things that happen in nature, all bodily and 
mental actions of creatures, are necessary actions, ac 
tions that cannot but follow upon their antecedents, 
that is to say, upon the sum of relevant conditions, 
positive and negative, going before. This attribute of 
the actions, that they cannot but ensue under the cir 
cumstances, is their necessity. Surely it is an attribute 
of the actions themselves, wholly independent of any 



DAVID HUME 143 

human inference. Whether men infer it or not, the 
action ensues and cannot but ensue. The sequence and 
its inevitability together make an objective fad. The 
necessity, Hume says, is "a quality in any intelligent 
being who may consider the action: it consists chiefly 
in the determination of his thoughts to infer, etc." No, 
it is that which determines his thought to infer, and 
that is no quality in him, but in the object which he 
is studying. For however much he may determine his 
thought to infer the sequence of the action, the action 
will not ensue unless there be that in the object which 
is of itself adequate to determine a well-informed mind 
to infer the sequence. According to Hume, necessity 
is confidence in inferring, and liberty is hesitation in 
inferring. Then the necessity of the orbit of the moon 
lies ("chiefly" at least, for Hume has the caution of 
his race) in the confidence with which astronomers 
calculate the moon s path in the heavens. Then, if 
there were no calculating astronomers, where would 
the moon be ? To ask such a simple question nowa 
days is to incur the imputation of "dualism," and to 
be taunted with one s ignorance of the great philoso- 
pherforwhom Hume prepared theway,Kant. To Kant, 
of course, necessity is a "form" of the mind. But I 
leave Kant alone, and Hume so far as he is Kantian, 
as he appears to be in this passage. I may as well avow 
that I am a dualist, and hold by "things in themselves."* 
There is, however, one case in which the liberty or 

* For Necessity as a form of the mind, compare the remarks on 
Contingency in my Of God and His Creatures, pp. 49, 50, 63, 244, 
259. For Potentiality as involving "things in themselves," see ib. 
pp. 17, 38, 39. 



i 4 4 FREE WILL 

necessity of an action belongs to the thinking or in 
telligent being who considers it: I mean when the 
action is that being s own. Hume in faltering accents 
admits that, though we infer other people s conduct 
from their antecedent motives and dispositions, we 
are frequently at a loss to infer from those data what 
step we ourselves are just about to take. And yet 
there, where we are best informed, is just the case 
where our prediction should be most confident and 
unfaltering. Are we not acquainted with our disposi 
tions by an experience commensurate with our ratio 
nal lives ? How comes it then that we are so much at 
fault in the prediction of our own immediately future 
behaviour? From this perplexity English philosophers 
may extricate themselves by a study of the English 
language. Good grammar and sound psychology con 
cur in proclaiming that it is not my business to calcu 
late what I shall do, but to decide what I will do. 
The distinction between shall and will is overlooked 
by Hume, and by necessarians and uniformists gene 
rally. No man in adjusting his W// reasons out his shall: 
resolution and speculation are two acts incompatible 
in the same instant. 

VII 

"Let any one define a cause, without compre 
hending, as a part of the definition, a necessary con 
nexion with its effect, and let him show, distinctly, the 
origin of the idea, expressed by the definition; and I 
shall readily give up the whole controversy. . . Had 
not objects a regular conjunction with each other, we 
should never have entertained any notion of cause 
and effect, and this regular conjunction produces that 



DAVID HUME 145 

inference of the understanding, which is the only con 
nexion that we can have any comprehension of. Who 
ever attempts a definition of cause, exclusive of these 
circumstances, will be obliged either to employ unin 
telligible terms or such as are synonymous to the term 
which he endeavours to define. Thus, if a cause be 
defined, that which produces anything, it is easy to 
observe that producing is synonymous to causing. 
In like manner, if a cause be defined that by which 
anything exists, this is liable to the same objection. 
Had it been said that a cause is that after which any 
thing exists, we should have understood the terms. 
For this is, indeed, all that we know of the matter. 
And this constancy forms the essence of necessity, nor 
have we any other idea of it." 

Another quotation, this time from Plato: 

"And don t tell me, he said, that justice is duty, 
or advantage, or profit, or gain, or interest, for that 
sort of watery stuff won t do for me; I must, and will, 
have a precise answer. . . You are a philosopher, 
Thrasymachus, I replied, and well know that if you 
ask what numbers make up twelve, taking care to pro 
hibit the person whom you ask from answering twice 
six, or three times four, or six times two, or four 
times three, for this sort of nonsense won t do for me; 
then, obviously, if that is your way of putting the 
question to him, neither he nor anyone can answer. 
And suppose he were to say, "Thrasymachus, what do 
you mean? And if the true answer to the question is 
one of these numbers which you interdict, am I to say 
some other number, which is not the right one, is 
that your meaning?" how would you answer him? 
Yes, said he, but how remarkably parallel the two 
cases are! Very likely they are, I replied; but even 

10 



146 FREE WILL 

if they are not, and only appear to be parallel to the 
person who is asked, can he to whom the question is 
put avoid saying what he thinks, even though you and 
I join in forbidding him? Well, then, I suppose you 
are going to make one of the interdicted answers? I 
dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if, 
upon reflection, I approve any of them. "* 

I fear I am making one of the answers which Hume 
interdicts when I define a cause as "that by which 
aught is made or done." He will observe that "mak 
ing" or "doing" is the same as "causing." I admit it: 
it is on that very point that I lay stress. Elementary 
notions, like "cause," "being," "right," cannot be 
defined without a certain tautology. But it is better to 
be tautological than falsely philosophical. Better is a 
familiar definition than one which surprises and de 
ludes. "That after which anything constantly exists" 
is certainly no synonym of "cause." It means a great 
deal less than cause, and applies to a great many things 
that are not causes: it cannot stand as a definition. It 
leaves out that notion of "making," or "doing," or 
"producing," which, on Hume s own avowal, is one 
with the notion of causing. And it takes in what no 
reasonable man would venture to call a cause. There 
is a rainbow at two o clock, and at six o clock there is 
an accident to an excursion train. Did the rainbow 
cause the accident? No, I say, for it did not make or 
produce it. "No," Hume cries, "for an accident does 
not always follow after a rainbow." His definition ex 
cludes that case. But it does not exclude the case ot 

* Plato, Republic, Book i, Jowett s Translation. 



DAVID HUME 147 

night following day, nor of the ebb of the tide follow 
ing the flow, nor of weakness following strength. Yet 
how insufficient an explanation it would be to say that 
the sun set because it rose; that the tide went out be 
cause it came in, or that a man was weak in old age 
because in youth he was strong! 

I would draw a distin&ion between a "cause" and 
and an "explanation." By "cause" I understand, as I 
have already defined, "that by which aught is made 
or done." By "explanation" I understand "that after 
which an event always follows and always would follow 
under any conceivable hypothesis." I call "explana 
tion "what John Stuart Mill, in his Logic, calls "cause," 
and defines to be "that after which a phenomenon 
follows invariably and unconditionally," in which de 
finition the adverb invariably signifies that the pheno 
menon always follows ; and, unconditionally , that it 
always would follow. Unconditionally is well rendered 
by the French quand meme. This is an explanation in 
the sense in which a grammatical construction is said 
to be "explained" by quoting a rule of grammar. It 
is an alleging of the indefectible law of which the case 
in point forms an instance. Thus the phenomenon of 
sunset is explicable by a recitation of the fa<5ts of the 
existence, opaqueness and rotation of the earth, and 
of the existence and luminous nature of the sun. 
These positive conditions, along with the negative 
condition of the absence of arrangements to the con 
trary, such as would be a provision for reflecting the 
sun s rays round the earth, are the explanation of 
sunset. Suppose all this, and you may suppose what 



148 FREE WILL 

else you like: the sun surely will set. The negative 
condition bargains, amongst other things, for the 
absence of miraculous interposition. If GOD, at 
the prayer of another Joshua, willed the sun not to 
set as it usually does, He would make some unusual 
arrangement against its setting. His would be no 
barren velleity, leaving the antecedents just as they 
were, without addition. That would be to will and will 
not, which is not the way of a wise being. For we must 
remember that the uniformity of nature, whereby cer 
tain consequents are annexed to certain antecedents 
is GOD S express will and ordinance. "He hath sta- 
blished it for ever, for ever and aye; he hath given 
command, and it shall not pass away." 

No explanation in the technical sense just defined 
can be given of the volitions of free agents as such. 
Of a free act you cannot predicate that it always fol 
lows and always would follow any given previous state 
of things; you cannot particularise the antecedent or 
set of antecedents upon which such an act ensues in 
variably and unconditionally. The reason of this ano 
maly is manifest: it is the addition of personality, of 
self-consciousness. Here there are not simply fads 
following fads: there is, to boot, an ego reviewing the 
sequence. 

But though, strictly speaking, no * explanation is 
assignable for a free volition, yet every volition has a 
cause; for every volition is an act, and every act has 
its doer. The doer of an act of will is the person will 
ing. He it is by whom the act is done; he then is the 
cause of the volition. The definition of cause here 



DAVID HUME 149 

involved does not comprehend any necessary con 
nexion with the effect. Though it appear a paradox, it 
is the truth in regard to volition, that the effect is ne 
cessarily connected with the cause, but not the cause 
with the effect. If the volition has taken place, the 
agent must have willed it; but the agent may be in the 
conjuncture proper for willing, and yet no volition 
ensue.* 

The origin of the idea expressed by the definition, 
* A cause is that by which aught is made or done, is 
not far to seek; we find it in our consciousness of our 
selves. We recognise ourselves as the principle of our 
acts, the source from whence they proceed. We learn 
to say, * I made so and so, * I did so and so, { Such 
and such a work is mine. But we cannot say this of 
everything. We are surrounded with what we have not 
made, we are the victims of much that we have not 
done. Thereby we are taught to detach the idea ot 
( maker or * doer from the idea of self, and form the 
general concept of l cause. 

To cause is to act, to work, to energise: it is not 
simply to go before, as one phenomenon before an 
other. If nothing is real but phenomena, then to be 
sure causation does dwindle down to mere sequence 
without action. But how absurd the concept of pure 
unsubstantial phenomena, manifestations which reveal 
no enduring thing to any abiding person, manifesta 
tions of nothing to nobody! How shall we account for 

* Compare the teaching of the old theologians that the world is 
really related to GOD, but GOD is not really related to the world; 
which means that the world implies GOD, but GOD does not imply 
the world. See Of CjW and His reaturei, pp. 82, 83. 



1 5 o FREE WILL 

that self of ours, which remembers the past, is con 
scious of the present, and argues the future, being at 
once historian, witness and prophet? Sure I am that 1 
am no vanishing phenomenon, no fluxional state of 
consciousness, but a person who leads a continuous 
life, identically the same person from age to age. And 
from my own permanence I argue permanence around 
me, both of persons and things. I am the subject of 
changes, which modify but do not subvert my being. 
When I observe changes of which I am not the sub 
ject, I find a subject for them in some permanent being 
outside myself. I cannot believe that the whole of 
nature, beyond the bounds of myself, consists of pure 
changes, floating loose and unattached to any lasting 
underlying things. But if there exist things that last, 
or noumena,then appearances that pass, or phenomena, 
are the actions of those lasting things; in other words, 
noumenal things are the causes of phenomenal changes. 

VIII 

" Liberty, when opposed to necessity, not to con 
straint, is the same thing with chance; which is uni 
versally allowed to have no existence." 

Chance may be defined an unforeseen coincidence 
in some sphere of human enterprise. We do not call 
the arrangement of the heavens a chance: that is be 
cause we find the host of heaven drawn out antece 
dently to any undertaking of ours. We call no arrange 
ment a chance arrangement, which we recognise as the 
usual thing in nature, or see to have been designed by 
man. But when, looking tor one thing, we find another, 



DAVID HUME 151 

we call that a chance. Many discoveries in science ami 
art have been made by chance. Excavating for drain 
age purposes, we * chance upon some prehistoric re 
mains. But coming upon a mound which we seledlas 
likely to contain such remains, we do not call it chance, 
if excavation proves our conjecture to have been correct. 
To the omniscient Mind there is no chance. Chance 
is a relative term. Absolutely, or objectively, chance has 
no existence. 

An acl: of free will may be considered, antecedently 
to its performance, in the reckoning of some interested 
looker-on. Either that looker-on has endeavoured to 
influence the choice of the agent, or he has not. Either 
again he is acquainted with the agent s character and 
motives, or he is unacquainted with them. If the ob 
server is quite a stranger to the agent and to the cir 
cumstances of his action, what the agent will do is to 
him mere chance. If he knows the man and his mo 
tives, he predicts his adlion with high probability, sub 
ject however, in some cases, to an element of chance, 
which is traceable partly to the observer s ignorance, 
but partly also to the agent s free will. If the observer 
has endeavoured to influence the choice, and the agent 
chooses accordingly, the exerciser of such influence will 
not ascribe the aclion to chance, for this reason that 
he himself has intended it and laboured to bring it 
about. If, on the other hand, the agent resists the soli 
citation, the person so thwarted puts the refusal down 
to obstinacy or cussedness, terms which point to free 
will: he never ascribes it to chance. 

But an adl of free will may be otherwise considered, 



152 FREE WILL 

not in the reckoning of a bystander, but in the mind 
and will of the agent himself. So considered the act is 
as far removed from chance as the poles of the heavens 
stand asunder. The act is "adverted to," it is "meant," 
it is "known," "willed," "chosen"; all which expres 
sions denote the very reverse of "fortuitous." Not by 
chance was it that "the well-beloved Brutus stabbed." 

Altogether this attempt to tie up free will with 
chance, and merge them both in non-existence, appears 
singularly infelicitous. From one point of view chance 
is not non-existent, while from another point of view 
free will is not chance. 

IX 

"There is no method of reasoning more common, 
and yet none more blameable, than, in philosophical 
disputes, to endeavour the refutation of any hypothe 
sis by a pretence of its dangerous consequences to 
religion and morality. When any opinion leads to 
absurdities, it is certainly false; but it is not certain 
that an opinion is false because it is of dangerous con 
sequence. Such topics, therefore, ought entirely to be 
forborne, as serving nothing to the discovery of truth, 
but only to make the person of an antagonist odious." 

This passage has gathered interest during the cen 
tury and more which has elapsed since it was written. 
The first issue which it raises is this: how far have we 
certainty of faith and religion? If there are certainties 
of faith and religion, any hypothesis in plain diametri 
cal contradiction with such certainties must, on Hume s 
own confession, be an opinion that "leads to absur 
dities" and is "certainly false." That there are certain 
ties in faith and religion is the first and prime point 



DAVID HUME 153 

of Catholic belief. But how many people who have not 
the blessing of Catholic faith hold now to such certain 
ties? I am far from replying, None: I do not know how 
many, but the number of such persons is rapidly dimi 
nishing in intellectual circles. 

But an opinion may be not contradictory of faith 
and religion, but merely "dangerous," as threatening 
contradiction to come. What such an opinion contra 
dicts is not the religious truth itself, exactly as that 
stands in its certainty, but some sort of explanation 
which theologians have given of such truth, some 
shape into which their private hands have moulded 
it, some protecting envelope in which they have en- 
sheathed it. Here Hume s saying is true: "It is not 
certain that an opinion is false because it is of danger 
ous consequence." One is reminded of the notices to 
cyclists that now diversify our country roads: Danger^ 
ride cautiously. The rider is not bidden to stop and go 
no further, but to go slow, as it were feeling his way. 
If he persists in riding at a breakneck pace, he may 
merit the attention of the police. And a Catholic philo 
sopher or theologian, who pushes " dangerous" opinions 
recklessly, may be censured by some Roman Congre 
gation, not as a heretic, not necessarily as a teacher of 
false doctrine, but as a "temerarious" person. 

A central certain truth of faith and religion is the 
doctrine of Providence, that GOD has care of the world. 
In the Middle Ages this came to be curiously bound 
up with Ptolemaic astronomy. The heavenly spheres, 
it was supposed, presided, although not absolutely, 
over terrestrial events; the primum mobile conducted 



154 FREE WILL 

the motions of the heavenly spheres; and an angel by 
divine command guided and impelled the primum mo 
bile* When Copernicanism came to be advocated, and 
the primum mobile denied, the new theory seemed 
"dangerous" to the doctrine of Providence. There was 
need to proceed with some caution. The divine govern 
ment of the world had to be otherwise explained. The 
readjustment was made, the danger disappeared, the 
heliocentric astronomy was admitted, and certainty of 
divine faith in Providence still remained. Not every 
new opinion that has seemed "dangerous" to faith, 
has turned out so safe and true as Copernicanism. 

But necessarianism, or "determinism" as it is now 
called, is not merely "dangerous": it is in diametric 
contradiction with the certainties of Catholic faith, at 
least when it goes the length of affirming that free will 
is not merely "highly mysterious," "inexplicable," 
"hitherto unexplained," but that nothing that can be 
truly called freewill has anyplace in any spiritual nature 
whatsoever. The ruin of Catholic devotion is the ruin 
of Catholic faith. But a thing fundamental in Catholic 
devotion is sorrow and contrition for sin. "Contri 
tion" is "heart-bruising." It is the heart of a penitent 
broken with sorrow and self-reproach before a GOD 
whom too late it has come to know, too late it has 
come to love; too late as regards the commission of 
sin, although not too late for forgiveness. Its cry is 
mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Determinism would 
change all that. Instead of "my fault," all that it 

* St Thomas, Contra Gentiles, m,chapp. 77-87: Of God and His 
Creatures, -pp. 201, 249. 



DAVID HUME 155 

owns to is "my very great misfortune." "My con 
duct," it says, "has been bad, harmful, disorderly, 
vicious, ugly and shameful: but with my inherited 
proclivities, with my environment, my bodily consti 
tution, my temptations, it was the only conduct of 
which I was capable: anyone else in my exact position 
would have done just the same: unhappy man that 
I am, but who can blame me? My conduct indeed has 
been condemnable, but who can condemn w^"? Thus 
self-reproach is exchanged for self-commiseration. The 
evil-doer is ashamed of his evil doing, but only as a 
poor man may be ashamed of wearing poor clothes 
where he has no others to put on. I need not say that 
such lamentation over self is not contrition. I need not 
say that such predetermined swerving from the path 
of righteousness is not sin.* 

The denial of free will has merited the explicit con 
demnation of the Catholic Church, e.g., in the Council 
of Trent, sess. 6, can. 5. The denial may proceed on 
theological grounds, as though the fall of Adam had 
deprived man of free choice in all alternatives of right 
and wrong, and made sin a necessity to him; or as 
though the victorious grace of CHRIST, in some few 
favoured persons, overbore free will, and necessarily 
produced works meritorioos of heaven. Or the denial 
may proceed on grounds of mere philosophy, as in 
Hobbes s and Hume s case, which seems to have been 
the case also of sundry medieval doctors, notably \Vy- 
clif. Wyclif was expressly censured in the Council of 
Constance for declaring omnia de necessitate e- oeniunt. 
* Sec my Political and Moral Eisays, pp. 259, 260. 



156 FREE WILL 

The theological denial of free will makes an essential 
part of the often condemned heresies of Calvinist and 
Jansenist. I have no intention of discussing the mind 
of St Augustine. The mind of that profound thinker, 
and in controversy somewhat impetuous disputant, is 
a vast region to explore. I content myself with the 
remark that no necessarian could have shed the tears 
of contrition which bedew the pages of St Augus 
tine s Confessions. 

X 

" The only proper object of hatred or vengeance 
is a person, or creature endowed with thought and 
consciousness; and when any criminal or injurious 
actions excite that passion, it is only by their relation 
to the person or connexion with him. Actions are, by 
their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where 
they proceed not from some cause in the character or 
disposition of the person who performed them, they 
can neither redound to his honour if good, nor infamy 
if evil. The actions themselves may be blameable; they 
may be contrary to all the rules of morality and reli 
gion ; but the person is not answerable for them ; 
and as they proceeded from nothing in him that is 
durable and constant, and leave nothing of that nature 
behind them, it is impossible he can upon their account 
become the objecl: of punishment or vengeance. Ac 
cording to the principle, therefore, which denies neces 
sity, and consequently causes, a man is as pure and 
untainted after having committed the most horrid 
crime, as at the first moment of his birth, nor is his 
character anywise concerned in his actions, since they 
are not derived from it, and the wickedness of the 
one can never be used as a proof of the depravity of 
the other." 



DAVID HUME 157 

To begin with an argumentum ad hominem. Hume 
here repudiates that philosophy which reduces "being," 
oixriii, to "becoming," ycwm?; that philosophy which 
owns no other reality than states of mind, or " actions 
temporary and perishing"; that philosophy which dis 
covers in man "nothing that is durable and constant," 
nothing, therefore, that can be called "the person." But 
such is the very phenomenalist, or positivist, philo 
sophy, which Hume s sceptical attacks on cognition 
went so tar to introduce. Hume professes a horror of 
" the principle which denies necessity, and conse 
quently causes," the very things which he himself 
denies, bringing down necessity to fact, and causes to 
invariable antecedents. And if upon definite antece 
dents one definite human act invariably (and therefore, 
in Hume s explanation, necessarily) follows, the facts 
of character being reckoned among the antecedents, 
many of us will not hesitate to declare that "a man is 
as pure and untainted after having committed the most 
horrid crime as at the first moment of his birth," at 
least he is no more guilty than the wolf which worries 
a six-months-old child: what else could the creature 
rationally be expected to do? In this incautious wri 
ting Hume seems to have exposed the flank of his 
whole philosophy. The present argument, however, 
deserves treatment on its own merits. The argument 
is still current: I have myself heard it on the lips of 
an eminent lecturer in the University of Oxford. 
Where it is contended that murder, for instance, is a 
free act, Hume takes that assertion to imply that there 
was nothing in the character or disposition of the 



158 FREE WILL 

agent inclining him to shed blood, and that, when the 
deed is done, there ensues in him no inclination to do 
the like again, but the act stands isolated and all alone, 
after the manner of the moment out of time, TO t <-tyi>jr, 
which Plato supposes to be the instant of transition 
from rest to motion, or from motion to rest.* Hume 
may open all his batteries upon this position without 
touching one single defender of free will. We all allow 
that character has a vast influence on conduct: we only 
deny that it has an absolutely determining influence 
upon every single point of premeditated action. Like 
wise we allow that acts form habits; and character is a 
sum total of acquired habits and congenital proclivities. 
Character is more or less permanent; but there is 
something still more permanent than character: that 
is the " person, or creature endowed with thought and 
consciousness," a definition which I thankfully take 
from Hume. Free will in act is eminently a personal 
act: it is the rational creature s outpouring of its own 
vitality; and where the act is evil and vitality is poured 
out with will and deliberation upon an undue object, 
the person thereby becomes a more or less wicked 
person, and so remains until the act is revoked. 

A wicked character is a mark of wicked deeds: it is 
produced by them and reproduces them in turn. The 
deeds by which such a character is produced are freely 
done. The deeds which it produces are free less and 
less as they are multiplied, and as the evil character of 
the doer is more and more confirmed. A wicked cha 
racter then is a sure mark of wicked deeds having 
* Plato, Tarmenictts, i 5 6d. 



DAVID HUME 159 

gone before, and a probable mark of more to follow. 
Wicked deeds are a sure mark of a wicked character 
bcinij .it le;ist in course of formation, but not neces 
sarily already formed, a fact which founds the Aristo 
telian distinction between UK par fa and afcoXoaroc.* 
Volition, like muscular and nervous energy, with 
which in man it is essentially connected, tends to run 
in grooves according as it is exercised. There is no 
thing incompatible with free will there. Free will is 
limited, like everything else in man. 

XI 

" If voluntary actions be subjected to the same laws 
of necessity with the operations of matter, there is a 
continued chain of necessary causes preordained and 
predetermined, reaching from the original cause of all 
to every single volition of every human creature; no 
contingency any where in the universe; no indifference, 
no liberty. While we act, we are at the same time acted 
upon. The ultimate Author of all our volitions is the 
Creator of the world, who first bestowed motion on 
this immense machine and placed all beings in that 
particular position whence every subsequent event by 
an inevitable necessity must result. Human actions, 
therefore, either can have no moral turpitude at all, 
as proceeding from so good a cause; or if they have 
any turpitude, they must involve our Creator in the 
same guilt, while He is acknowledged to be their ulti 
mate cause and author. For as a man who fired a mine 
is answerable for all the consequences whether the 
train he employed be long or short, so wherever a con 
tinued chain of necessary causes is fixed, that Being, 

* See Nicomackean Ethics, vii, 9, or Aquinas Etkum, vol. i> 
pp. 170, 171. 



i6o FREE WILL 

either finite or infinite, who produces the first is like 
wise the author of all the rest, and must both bear the 
blame and acquire the praise which belongs to them. 
Our clear and unalterable ideas of morality establish 
this rule upon unquestionable reasons when we exa 
mine the consequences of any human action, and these 
reasons must still have greater force when applied to 
the volitions and intentions of a Being infinitely wise 
and powerful. Ignorance or impotence may be pleaded 
for so limited a creature as man; but those imperfec 
tions have no place in our Creator. He foresaw, He 
ordained, He intended all those actions of men which 
we so rashly pronounce criminal. And we must there 
fore conclude either that they are not criminal or that 
the Deity, not man, is accountable for them. But as 
either of these positions is absurd and impious, it 
follows that the doctrine from which they are deduced 
cannot possibly be true." 

This is an objection which Hume urges against 
himself with a vivacity and force that deserve the best 
thanks of his opponents. In answer he avows that the 
difficulty is not to be got over by accepting the first 
alternative, the position that no human actions are 
criminal. He finds it as impossible to deny wickedness 
as to deny pain and ugliness in this world of woe. He 
says: "Why should not the acknowledgement of a real 
distinction between vice and virtue be reconcilable to 
all speculative systems of philosophy as well as that of 
a real distinction between personal beauty and de 
formity? Both these distinctions are founded in the 
natural sentiments of the human mind, and these 
sentiments are not to be controlled or altered by any 
philosophical theory or speculation whatsoever." 



DAVID HUME 161 

As Hume does not deny the criminality of certain 
human actions while he affirms the necessity of them, 
one is curious to see by what shift he escapes the 
second horn of his own dilemma. How ever does he 
avoid the "absurd and impious position," for so he 
calls it, of charging the Judge of all the earth with all 
the wrong done there ? He makes his escape in the fol 
lowing characteristic manner: 

"The second objection admits not of so easy and 
satisfactory an answer; nor is it possible to explain dis 
tinctly how the Deity can be the mediate cause of all 
the actions of men, without being the author of sin 
and moral turpitude. These are mysteries, which mere 
natural and unassisted reason is very unfit to handle; 
and whatever system she embraces, she must find her 
self involved in inexplicable difficulties, and even con 
tradictions, at every step which she takes with regard 
to such subjects. To reconcile the indifference and con 
tingency of human actions with prescience; or to de 
fend absolute decrees, and yet free the Deity from 
being the author of sin, has been found hitherto to 
exceed all the power of philosophy. Happy, if she be 
thence sensible of her temerity, when she pries into 
these sublime mysteries; and leaving a scene so full 
of obscurities and perplexities, return with suitable 
modesty to her true and proper province, the exami 
nation of common life; where she will find difficulties 
enow to employ her inquiries, without launching into 
so boundless an ocean of doubt, uncertainty and 
contradiction ! " 

There is a certain vulpine humility in all this. But 
it had been more honest either to admit the objection 



1 62 FREE WILL 

as valid and unanswerable,an admission tantamount to 
a denial of GOD, for a bad god is no god at all ; or 
else to repudiate that Humian doctrine from which 
the whole objection proceeds, that "voluntary actions 
be subjected to the same laws of necessity with the 
operations of matter." 



JOHN STUART 
MILL 



JOHN STUART MILL 

Logic, Boo{ VI, Chap. II. Of Liberty and Necessity. 
Examination of Sir William Hamilton s Philo 
sophy, Chap. XXVI. On the Freedom of the 
Will 

I 

"CORRECTLY conceived, the doctrine called 
\^4 Philosophical Necessity is simply this: that, 
given the motives which are present to an individual s 
mind, and given, likewise, the character and disposi 
tion of the individual, the manner in which he will 
act may be unerringly inferred; that if we knew the 
person thoroughly, and knew all the inducements 
which are acting upon him, we could foretell his con 
duct with as much certainty as we can predict any 
physical event. This proposition 1 take to be a mere 
interpretation of universal experience, a statement in 
words of what every one is internally convinced of. No 
one who believed that he knew thoroughly the cir 
cumstances of any case, and the characters of the dif 
ferent persons concerned, would hesitate to foretell 
how all of them would act. Whatever degree of doubt 
he may in fact feel arises from the uncertainty whether 
he really knows the circumstances, or the character of 
some one or other of the persons, with the degree of 
accuracy required; but by no means from thinking 
that if he did know these things, there could be any 
uncertainty what the conduct will be." 



1 66 FREE WILL 

Mill strives to rest his doctrine, which is one with 
that of Hume, upon experience. But I observe that 
the experience which he invokes is not any know 
ledge of fact, but a belief about an unobserved con 
tingency: it is not an experience of what is, but an 
expectation of what would be in a certain issue which 
never occurs. No one ever does know any person 
thoroughly, nor the relative values of all the motives 
affecting any person s conduct out upon a new field 
of choice where he has never been tried before, where 
he cannot proceed by force of habit, where he will 
have to make up his mind afresh, the very situation 
in which, if anywhere, free will must come into play. 
Even a successful prediction in such a case would 
prove nothing. The success might be due, three- 
quarters to shrewdness and the remaining quarter to 
luck, as when one has backed the winner of the Derby. 
"Three-quarters to shrewdness," I say, for I admit 
that a free volition may be predicted with probability. 
1 deny only that it can be predicted with certainty even 
under the fullest knowledge of antecedent conditions 
of choice. Not with certainty, because the volition is 
not essentially contained in those conditions. Against 
this position Mill alleges "a mere interpretation of 
universal experience," his interpretation, to wit, but 
certainly not his experience. As I have shown against 
Hume, the libertarian interpretation, properly guarded 
and explained, suits all experienced facts of predic 
tion as well as "the doctrine called Philosophical 
Necessity." Nothing, then, is thereby proved on 
cither side. 



JOHN STUART MILL 167 

II 

"The religious metaphysicians who have asserted 
Lhc freedom of the will have always maintained it to 
be consistent with divine foreknowledge of our actions; 
and if with divine, then with any other foreknowledge." 

As religious metaphysicians we speak of" the GOD of 
the Theist and of the Christian ; a GOD who is numeri 
cally One, who is Personal; the Author, Sustainer and 
Finisher of all things, the Life of Law and Order, the 
Moral Governor; One who is Supreme and Sole; like 
Himself, unlike all things besides Himself, which are 
but His creatures; distinct from, independent of them 
all; One who is self-existing, absolutely infinite, who 
has ever been and ever will be, to whom nothing is 
past or future; who is all perfection, and the fullness and 
archetype of every possible excellence, the Truth Itself, 
Wisdom, Love, Justice, Holiness; One who is All- 
powerful, All-knowing, Omnipresent, Incomprehen 
sible."* I am not concerned with the correctness of 
this representation: my sole purpose is to show that 
they who believe it to be correct are not committed to 
the inference that if the freedom of the will is con 
sistent with the divine foreknowledge of our actions, 
it must be consistent likewise with any other fore 
knowledge. The foreknowledge ascribed to "the GOD 
of the Theist and of the Christian" not standing on 
a level with any other foreknowledge, Mill s argu 
ment a part becomes inadmissible. 

God is"One,who is self-existing, absolutely infinite, 
who has ever been and ever will be, to whom nothing is 
* Grammar of\fssfftf, p. 98. 



1 68 FREE WILL 

past or future." He is the perfed realisation of all that 
can be, filling all bounds of being, filling all space and 
time, yesterday and to-day and for ever the same, 
stationary in the plentitude of being. Like His being, 
His knowledge is measured by eternity; it all exists 
together, it embraces all time. Whatever things come 
to be in time, are to God eternally present. His vision 
ranges from eternity over all things as they are under 
His unvarying all-pervading gaze. 

To us the past and the future, when we know them, 
are present in their images or in their signs.* But to 
God they are present in themselves, for they are in 
Him as in their first principle. We are placed at the 

* " If the future and the past are, I would know where they are. 
And if I cannot yet compass that, still I know that, wherever they 
are, they are not there future or past but present. For if there also 
they are future, they are not yet there; if there they are past, they 
are no longer there. Wherever, therefore, they are, and whatever they 
are, they are not save in the present. When the past is related truly, 
it is not the past things themselves that are produced from memory, 
but words formed from the images of them, like footprints which 
in passing by they have impressed on the mind through the senses. 
My boyhood for instance, which is no more, is in the time past, 
which is no more; but when I con over and tell my impression of 
it, I am looking at an objecl in the present time, because the im 
pression is still in my memory. . . When the future is said to be 
seen, it is not the things themselves which as yet are not, or which 
are future, it is their causes or signs perchance, that are seen, which 
signs already are. . . It is now plain and clear that neither the future 
nor the past is. Nor is it properly said, There are three tenses, the 
present, the past, and the future; but perhaps it might properly be 
said: There are three tenses, the present of things past, the present 
of things present, and the present of things future. For these are 
three certain realities in the mind, and elsewhere I sec them not; 
the present of things past, which is memory; the present of things 
present, which is intuition; and the present of things future, which 
is expectation." St Augustine s Confessions, xi, 18, 20. 



JOHN STUART MILL 169 

circumference of the circle of which He is the centre. 
The instant in which we are is one now out of many: 
from the divine now all nows radiate, and it is equiva 
lent to them all. Thus to God there is no foreknow 
ledge or afterknowledge, but simply knowledge of the 
present. This knowledge, as applied to adual creation, 
receives in theology the name of the " science of vision." 
By it God sees, He sees in the a6l itself, He does not 
calculate from antecedents, all that He Himself is 
freely about to do, or rather is doing, in the way of 
creating, working miracles and the like, as also all the 
effects that will proceed from natural causes, whether 
from the necessary determination of their natures, or 
through the use made of them by free agents. God, 
looking at a creature, sees its history all at once before 
Him, albeit that, to the creature, the facls are evolved 
successively. The generation that shall be alive thirty- 
five years hence will behold what the ruler of France 
at that time does.* They will not calculate his actions 
from the motives, they will watch them being done. 
Thirty-five years hence is present in the now of God. 
He is a spectator of what is to go on then. 

This is marvellous doctrine. If it were not marvel 
lous, it would hardly be likely to be true of Him whose 
name is called Wonderful. But it is not on the mar- 
vellousness, nor even on the truth of the doclrine that 
I here wish to insist, but on the bare facl that this 
is the doctrine of those "religious metaphysicians" 
who assert the freedom of the will and maintain it to 
be consistent with the divine foreknowledgeofourcon- 
* Written about the year 1872. 



i?o FREE WILL 

duct. Such eternal foreknowledge is a thing without 
parallel in the human mind. It gives, therefore, no 
ground for the inference set up by Mill. 

Ill 

" It is not the doctrine that our volitions and actions 
are invariable consequents of our antecedent states of 
mind, that is either contradicted by our consciousness 
or felt to be degrading. But the doctrine of causation, 
when considered as obtaining between our volitions 
and their antecedents, is almost universally conceived 
as involving more than this. Many do not believe, and 
very few practically feel, that there is nothing in causa 
tion but in variable, certain and unconditional sequence. 
There are few to whom mere constancy of succession 
appears a sufficiently stringent bond of union for so 
peculiar relation as that of cause and effect. Even if the 
reason repudiates, the imagination retains the feeling 
of some more intimate connexion, of some peculiar tie 
or mysterious constraint exercised by the antecedent 
over the consequent. Now this it is which, considered 
as applying to the human will, conflicts with our con 
sciousness and revolts our feelings. We are certain that, 
in the case of our volitions, there is not this myster ious 
constraint. We know that we are not compelled, as by a 
magical spell, to obey any particular motive. W r e feel 
that if we wish to prove that we have the power of 
resisting the motive, we could do so (that wish being, 
it needs scarcely be observed, a new antecedent); and 
it would be humiliating to our pride and paralysing 
to our desire of excellence if we thought otherwise. But 
neither is any such mysterious compulsion now sup 
posed, by the best philosophical authorities, to be exer 
cised by any cause over its effect. Those who think 
that causes draw their effects after them by a mystical 



JOHN STUART MILL 171 

tie, are right in believing that the relation between 
volitions and their antecedents is of another nature. 
But they should go further and admit that this is also 
true of all other effects and of their antecedents. If 
such a tie is considered to be involved in the word 
necessity, the doctrine is not true of human actions; 
but neither is it then true of inanimate objects. It 
would be more correct to say that matter is not bound 
by necessity than that mind is so." 

This language is, of course, no more than an echo 
of Hume (nn. 6, 7). But because it is striking and 
clear, and is caught up with approval by men of our 
time, and even by boys, it had better be listened to 
attentively and judged for what it is worth. Mill 
teaches that volition does not differ from mechanical 
action, so far as the invariable and unconditional se 
quence of consequents upon antecedents is concerned. 
Let the simultaneous facts, A, B, C, D, and others, 
be followed by the fact Z. Then, says Mill, whatever 
be the character of the facts, whether mental or phy 
sical, it is certain that wherever A, B, C and the rest 
go before, without addition or diminution, there Z 
will come after. Experience may show that Z occurs 
whether A precedes or not. Therefore A may be left 
out of the account, as likewise may other antecedents, 
as B, C, D, for the same reason. But it will be found 
that some antecedents, such as F and G, cannot be 
omitted without the result Z failing to appear. These 
antecedents must be retained. Again, the insertion of 
some new antecedents, as P, Q, R, may be found to 
prevent the appearance of Z, even though F and G, 



172 FREE WILL 

and all others whose presence is indispensable, are 
duly there. The omission of these obstructive ante 
cedents must be bargained for. Let the indispensable 
antecedents, F, G, etc., be summed under the general 
expression E, and the impeding antecedents, P, Q, R, 
etc., under the general expression E. Then the expres 
sion E - E will stand for what Mill calls the cause of Z, 
Z being any fact either of mind or of matter. 

Let us take an illustration from each department. 
And first of matter. A smith takes a piece of iron, 
heats it red-hot in the forge, and beats it flat on the 
anvil. The iron becoming flat is a fact or phenomenon 
of matter. The antecedents to it are the smith s hav 
ing got up that morning, having had his breakfast, 
having work to do, having put the iron in the fire, 
having hammered it, there are these and other ante 
cedents too numerous to mention. The result is that 
the iron gets flattened out. Any similar iron would 
get flattened out in similar circumstances. Even a varia 
tion of circumstances, up to a certain point, is compa 
tible with the attainment of the result. That smith, 
we will suppose, said his morning prayers. But iron 
will yield to beating, whether the hands that strike it 
have been previously clasped in prayer or not. GOD 
rains upon the just and the unjust. On the other hand, 
if the smith is stricken blind, his blow is likely to 
fail, and the metal will go unflattened. Thus some 
conditions are requisite to the effect, and some are 
superfluous. Further, there are conditions of which 
the absence is positively required. The hot bar must 
not be cooled in water, else the beating will make no 



JOHN STUART MILL 173 

impression. When all the indispensable conditions are 
there, and the preventive conditions are all absent, the 
result, the flattening of the iron, will be brought to pass, 
infallibly^ M ill would say : I should add, and necessarily. 
Let us pass to a phenomenon of will. A man has 
gained an importantsuccess,somethingthat he imagines 
will fix his name in history: he has vindicated his 
country s honour in the field, or amended her consti 
tution at home, or he has come forward in the ranks 
of her poets, her artists or her men of science: and 
as he thinks of his achievement, his heart is lifted up 
within him, as was the heart of Lucifer of old, taking 
the glory to himself away from GOD. If the person 
deliberately consents to this movement of vainglory, 
he commits a sin: so all moralists who recognise the 
rights of the Creator agree in teaching. If we are to 
believe Mill, the guilty consent there follows upon 
the temptation with a sequence as indefectible as the 
flattening of a hot iron consequent upon percussion. 
When a smith hammers a bar that has been properly 
heated, and when there is no interference, natural or 
supernatural, with the operation, it is incredible to 
Mill, as it is to every reasonable man, that the shape 
of the bar should remain unchanged. Suppose now 
two persons are placed together in the situation of 
trial which I have described. Their antecedent dis 
positions, their present motives, arising as well from 
nature as from grace, are essentially alike in number 
and in kind. In that case it is simply incredible to 
Mill that one man should sin and the other remain 
innocent. Crimes, he thinks, are ruled by the same 



i 7 4 FREE WILL 

laws as landslips. One cliff will not stand in the exacl: 
situation in which a similar cliff has fallen: neither 
will Abel ever do right, if placed, with Cain s charac 
ter, in an occasion similar to that in which Cain has 
done wrong. 

Our author indeed says: "We know that we are 
not compelled, as by a magical spell, to obey any par 
ticular motive. We feel that if we wished to prove 
that we have the power of resisting the motive we 
could do so." That wish, he adds with emphasis, would 
be "a new antecedent." Just as well may it be said 
that a cliff is not compelled, by any magical spell or 
natural necessity, to give way under any particular 
mining operation. If, as you cut away the rock, you 
judiciously replace it with iron pillars, they will bear 
up the superincumbent mass as it stood before. Those 
pillars are new antecedents. Without them, or some 
support like them, the rock, being undermined, surely 
will fall. With them, if they are sufficient, it as surely 
will stand. So, on Mill s showing, a man in tempta 
tion surely will sin, unless it occurs to him that it 
would be a fine thing to show his power of resistance. 
Without that, or some deterring thought of that sort, 
his offence is calculable, with mathematical precision, 
from the occasion given him. But supply him with 
motive sufficient, or if you like to speak theologically, 
with grace sufficient, to keep him out of sin, and 
there is no more danger of his yielding to temptation 
than there is of his sinking through a stone pavement. 

We have here a system of necessarianism, rigid as that 
of any Calvinist divine. The recognition of anything 



JOHN STUART MILL 175 

that possibly might be other than what actually is cannot 
stand with the doctrine of philosophical necessity, taught 
nowadays by "the best philosophical authorities," as 
Mill complacently styles himself and friends. The se 
quence of antecedent and consequent in this system 
is so close, so invariable, so uniform, as to leave no 
room anywhere for edging in a might be, A bridge 
has given way with a train upon it. It might not be 
that the train should not fall into the river. It might 
not be that the bridge, constructed as it was, should 
not give way under that pressure. It might not be that 
the railway officials, with their individual characters and 
incentives to action, should have had the forethought 
and energy to prevent the train from going upon the 
bridge. It might not be that the engineer of the bridge 
should have constructed it in any other way. It might 
not be that anything which has happened should have 
happened otherwise. Everywhere, event follows event 
with rigid calculable precision, till we come to the pri 
meval arrangement, the original collocation of mate 
rials in the universe. That, one is tempted to say, 
might have been arranged quite differently. But here 
those self-styled "best philosophical authorities" de 
clare human knowledge to stop short. Nothing, they 
tell us, can be known as to how the first position of 
things came about. Then it cannot be known that 
things might have been arranged in the beginning in 
any other fashion than as they actually were arranged. 
Consequently, so far as we know, all that happens is 
inevitable; what happens not, is impossible; andnothing 
might have been, or might be, except what has been, 



1 76 FREE WILL 

is, or shall be. This is what the doctrine of philosophi 
cal necessity comes to, Hobbism, pure and simple. 

A "mystical tie," indeed, would that relation be, of 
which there were no terms! The doctrine that "there 
is nothing in causation but invariable, certain and un 
conditional sequence," abolishes the terms of the re 
lation of cause and effect, and cuts the relation afloat 
to go by itself; this event before, and that event after, 
no permanent being anywhere. If there is nothing of 
permanent being in ourselves, and nothing permanent 
in nature, on what ground do we assert the perma 
nence of any law of nature? Why must the future re 
semble the past, if nothing of the past stands over into 
the future? No wonder if "many men do not believe, 
and very few practically feel," that there is nothing 
in the universe but a ghostly procession of phantoms 
going before and phantoms coming behind. No wonder 
if many men persist in looking for substantial realities, 
and for ties, "mystical" or otherwise, so long as 
they are real, that is to say, "real relations" between 
cause and effect. We divide these substantial realities 
into persons and things, persons habitually conscious of 
self, things totally unconscious: dumb animals, who need 
not here be considered, come in between. A thing es 
sentially acts upon whatever comes within the range 
of its action, as the earth on the moon, the sun on the 
planets, every particle of matter upon every other par 
ticle to which its power extends. The effect of such 
action is some determination to motion. This action 
of things is called transient, because the term of action 
lies without the agent. Therefore are things called 



JOHN STUART MILL 177 

inert ^ because they do not aft within or upon them 
selves, as it were setting themselves in motion. A 
pefsotijOn the other hand, the only person I here speak 
of is thinking man, as such, is impressed and acted 
upon by objects without entering into his ken, and to 
this impression there is a responsive action from 
within. This action is immanent, for it remains within 
the agent. This is the act of perceiving and liking, or 
disliking, and in its first stage this action is necessary, 
being determined, as determinists truly say, by envi 
ronment and character. It is only in a further stage, 
when the ego consciously awakes to judge of this spon 
taneous and necessary like or dislike, that the exercise 
of free will begins. 

Libertarians have this abiding dissatisfaction with 
Hume and Mill and the modern determinist school, 
that, as men blinded by physics to everything above 
the physical and material order, they ignore a vital 
difference between beings conscious of the ego and beings 
totally unconscious^ between persons in fact and things. 
Still, dissatisfied as we are, we are not surprised: we 
remember that we are dealing with men who have shut 
out from their philosophical purview all such con 
cepts as that of substantial, permanent Being and Per 
sonality (oufft o, u7ro<TTo<rit;), yea even of Body and Soul, 
and exercise their speculation solely upon transient 

States of consciousness (ytrtaiQ, a taOijaii;, iravra pit). 

Such exclusiveness leaves no place for free will, nor for 
much else that is valuable in human nature: nay, 
c nature itself loses all persistency and is carried away 
in the stream of the definitely and determinately <be- 

12 



1 78 FREE WILL 

coming. On all which dissolving views see Plato, 
The<etetus i 796-1 Sjb. 

IV 

" I am inclined to think that . . . error . . . would 
be prevented by forbearing to employ, for the expres 
sion of the simple fact of causation, so extremely in 
appropriate a term as necessity. That word, in its other 
acceptations, involves much more than mere unifor 
mity of sequence; it implies irresistibleness. Applied 
to the will, it only means that the given cause will be 
followed by the effect, subject to all possibilities of 
counteraction by other causes; but in common use it 
stands for the operation of those causes exclusively, 
which are supposed too powerful to be counteracted 
at all. When we say that all human actions take place 
of necessity, we only mean that they will certainly 
happen if nothing prevents: when we say that dying 
of want, to those who cannot get food, is a necessity, 
we mean that it will certainly happen whatever may 
be done to prevent it. The application of the same 
term to the agencies on which human actions depend, 
as is used to express those agencies of nature which 
are really uncontrollable, cannot fail, when habitual, to 
create a feeling of uncontrollableness in the former 
also. This, however, is a mere illusion. There are 
physical sequences which we call necessary, as death 
for want of food or air; there are others which are not 
said to be necessary, as death from poison, which an 
antidote, or the use of the stomach-pump, will some 
times avert. It is apt to be forgotten by people s feel 
ings, even if remembered by their understandings, 
that human actions are in this last predicament; they 
are never (except in some cases of mania) ruled by any 
one motive with such absolute sway that there is no 
room for the influence of any other. The causes, 



JOHN STUART MILL 179 

therefore, on which action depends are never uncon 
trollable; and any given effect is only necessary, pro 
vided that the causes tending to produce it are not 
controlled. That whatever happens, could not have 
happened otherwise unless something had taken place 
which was capable of preventing it, no one surely 
needs hesitate to admit." 

This is a distinct advance upon Hume, who thought 
(n. 7) that necessity added nothing to mere uniformity 
of sequence. Mill recognises that it adds an element 
of what we may call uncounteraftableness. No doubt Mdl 
is right. Only Mill s position is none the better for this 
correction of his predecessor; for in Mill s philosophy, 
as in Hume s, whatever is actually uncounterafled\s prac 
tically and in the concrete uncounteraftable; and there 
fore to happen and to happen of necessity are one. 

At Minster Lovel on the Windrush, some fifteen 
miles west of Oxford, may be seen what remains ot 
the house of Sir William Lovel, the trusted minister 
of Richard III. In the next reign Sir William took part 
in a rising against Henry VII, was defeated near Stoke, 
and never heard of again. Some said that he was 
drowned in the Trent, but others that he found his 
way back to his Oxfordshire home, and ensconced him 
self in one of those hiding-places which in those tumul 
tuous days were an indispensable adjunct to every great 
mansion. One old housekeeper knew his secret, and 
she suddenly died. A skeleton, supposed to be Sir 
William s, was found in the hiding-hole in 1708. We 
may imagine the unhappy plight of the refugee lord 
and master of that house. He hears the village clock 



i8o FREE WILL 

striking his usual dinner-hour: it does not call him to 
eat. Twenty-four hours pass away to the solitary 
prisoner, and forty-eight, and how many more? Men 
keep aloof from him, and he cannot go to them: nor 
do the angels come and minister to him. Nothing is 
left for the man in that situation but death: inevitably, 
irresistibly, necessarily, he must die. He may weep or 
sing, sit or stand or lie down, but he must die. The 
sun may shine or the rain fall, there may be feasting 
or mourning in the house, his acquaintance may love 
him or love him not: happen what will, if he remain 
in that situation, he must die. And so he did die, and 
there was no help for him. 

Sir William died necessarily, as the case stood. We 
can readily conceive how it might have stood other 
wise, how he might have been discovered in time and 
had food brought him by some faithful domestic. Let 
us pass to a case of volition, and clothe the volition in 
those circumstances which best make for freedom, if 
volition ever is free. I speak of what I know and where 
I have experience, in contradiction to blind prejudice 
and lack of experience, when I say that the most per 
fectly free volition possible is the choice of a state of 
life, made according to St Ignatius s "method of elec 
tion" in the Spiritual Exercises. But the particular in 
stance chosen matters not. If any one will not take 
mine, let him pick another for himself, let us say 
Wellington s resolution to give battle to Marmont at 
Salamanca. I follow up the instance which I have taken. 
It is all-important that the "exercitant s" election be 
his own. The director of the exercises is warned on 



JOHN STUART MILL 181 

no account to express a preference: nay, so far as may 
be, he is not to feel a preference of one state over an 
other for the exercitant s choice; he is not to advise 
this choice or that, much less to dictate. He is to allow 
the Creator to work alone upon the soul that He has 
created. Days of careful thought are bestowed on the 
choice. Mere emotion is discounted; prayerful reason 
ing must decide. The decision is made, and in this case 
we will suppose it to be, not to become a priest or 
religious, but to go into the army. Wrong or right, it 
is a thoroughly free election, the exercitant s own 
choice. Now I say, considered in the concrete and 
under the circumstances in which it is actually made, 
that choice is every whit as uncounteractable, in Mill s 
philosophy, and quite as necessary, as the refugee s 
death in his hiding-hole. Only by violating your hypo 
thesis, and bringing in discovery where discovery was 
none, can you save Sir William s life. Only by altering 
the exercitant s character, making him antecedently 
more of a churchman by disposition than he actually 
was, or by striking him with an alarm that in fact he 
felt not, or kindling in him an enthusiasm that in his 
breast did not burn, could you, on Mill s showing, 
bring that exercitant to choose to be a priest. As 
things stood, Mill would say, any choice of the 
priesthood in him was quite out of the question and 
impossible. Nay, taking a wider view of both positions, 
we must avow that it was not in the nature of things, 
as they lay from the beginning, for Sir William to be 
discovered and saved; nor was it part of the existent 
order of nature (and there can be only one order of 



182 FREE WILL 

nature) for that exercitant to have approached his elec 
tion in other dispositions or under any other play of 
motive. Mill would have allowed, I think, the neces 
sity of Sir William s death. Most men would allow it, I 
should allow it myself. No one who holds by Mill can 
draw any distinction subtle and potent enough to dis 
allow the similar necessity of that exercitant s choice. 

There is a children s story of a certain Dutch ship, 
which encountered a great storm at sea, whereupon the 
sailors chose one of their number to tie all the rest 
fast to the mast and spars. And so that one did. Then 
he fastened himself up, in such a way that, when the 
storm was over, he might loose first himself and then 
his comrades. But the ship happening to give a great 
lurch, he was turned head over heels, and hung un 
able to release himself. Thus the whole crew were put 
to drift at the mercy of the weather. Mill depidls man 
kind in the plight of these unfortunate Dutchmen. 
Any man might act otherwise than he does, if he could 
get fresh motives, which would be forthcoming if any 
one else could give them; but every man is tied up in 
invariable and unconditional sequences like his fellow- 
man: thus the world drifts underthe breath of necessity. 

This sad consequence results from a too unqualified 
admission of the principle that "whatever happens, 
could not have happened otherwise unless something 
had taken place which was capable of preventing it." 
Man, in certain cases, could have elicited the mere 
inward, deliberate acl: of his will otherwise than as he 
actually has elicited it, and that apart from anything 
else taking place, other than what has actually taken 



JOHN STUART MILL 183 

place, antecedently to his willing. Man is the one un 
bound sailor in the ship of the physical universe. 

V 

"Though the doctrine of necessity, as stated by 
most who hold it, is very remote from fatalism, it is 
probable that most necessarians are fatalists, more or 
less, in their feelings. A fatalist believes, or half be 
lieves, for nobody is a consistent fatalist, not only 
that whatever is about to happen will be the infallible 
result of the causes which produce it, which is the 
true necessarian doctrine, but, moreover, that there is 
no use in struggling against it; that it will happen how 
ever we may strive to prevent it. Now, a necessarian, 
believing that our actions follow from our characters, 
and that our characters follow from our organization, 
our education and our circumstances, is apt to be, with 
more or less of consciousness on his part, a fatalist as 
to his own actions, and to believe that his nature is 
such, or that his education and circumstances have so 
moulded his character, that nothing can now prevent 
him from feeling and acting in a particular way, or at 
least that no effort of his own can hinder it. In the 
words of the sect which in our own day has most per- 
severingly inculcated and most perversely misunder 
stood this great doctrine, his character is formed for 
him, and not by him; therefore his wishing that it had 
been formed differently is of no use; he has no power 
to alter it. But this is a grand error. He has, to a cer 
tain extent, a power to alter his own character. Its being, 
in the ultimate resort, formed for him, is not incon 
sistent with its being in part formed by him as one of 
the intermediate agents. . . We are exactly as capable of 
making our own character, if we will, as others are 
of making it for us. Yes, answers the Owenite, but 



i8 4 FREE WILL 

these words, "if we will," surrender the whole point, 
since the will to alter own character is given us, not 
by any efforts of ours, but by circumstances which we 
cannot help; it comes to us either from external causes, 
or not at all. Most true: if the Owenite stops here, he 
is in a position from which nothing can expel him. 
Our character is formed by us as well as for us; 
but the wish which induces us to attempt to form it 
is formed for us, and how? Not, in general, by our 
organization, nor wholly by our education, but by our 
experience; experience of the painful consequences of 
the character we previously had, or by some strong feel 
ing of admiration or aspiration, accidentally aroused." 

The Owenite whom Mill combats is his own veri 
table shadow; or Mill is the shadow of the Owenite. 
The attitudes of the two precisely correspond. The 
Owenite alleges that man s character is formed for 
him and not by him. Mill answers that we are capable 
of making our own characters, if we will. The Owen 
ite contends that this "if we will" surrenders the 
whole point, and Mill ingenuously replies, "Most 
true." The Owenite lays it down that man has no 
power to alter his character by his wishing. Mill 
thinks that he has, to some extent. The Owenite points 
out that the will to alter our character is given us, not 
by any efforts of ours, but by circumstances which we 
cannot help; and Mill hastens to assure him that so 
long as he stops there he is in a position from which 
nothing can expel him. Is there any difference be 
tween the disputants? Whatever there is comes only 
to this, that the one would have our characters to be 
formed for us and not by us; the other both for us 



JOHN STUART MILL 185 

and by us. But this difference disappears upon the 
explanation which Mill affords, that our characters are 
formed for us "in the ultimate resort," but by us "as 
intermediate agents." Bearing in mind what Mill adds, 
that this intermediate agency of ours is determined 
by "external causes," this explanation is everything 
that the Owenite could desire. Man starts with an 
organisation which is none of his contriving: he re 
ceives an education, that is, a supply of motives from 
without, tending to direct him in a certain way: he 
gets experience of painful consequences which he did 
not mean to encounter: he also has strong feelings, 
accidentally aroused. These and the like adventitious 
determinants are the making of the man s character. 
Character determined from without, and motive com 
ing in from without, rule the man s every choice jointly. 
It must be so in the absence of free will. 

VI 

"To think that we have no power of altering our 
character, and to think that we shall not use our 
power unless we desire to use it, are very different 
things and have a very different effect on the mind. 
A person who does not wish to alter his character can 
not be the person who is supposed to feel discouraged 
or paralysed by thinking himself unable to do it. The 
depressing effect of the fatalist doctrine can only be 
felt where there is a wish to do what that doctrine re 
presents as impossible. It is of no consequence what 
we think forms our character, when we have no desire 
of our own to form it; but it is of great consequence 
that we should not be prevented from forming such 
a desire by thinking the attainment impracticable, and 



1 86 FREE WILL 

that if we have the desire, we should know that the 
work is not so irrevocably done as to be incapable of 
being altered." 

To think that we shall not use our power to alter 
our character unless we desire it, and further that we 
shall not desire it except in accordance with some in 
variable sequence analogous to the sequence of a feel 
ing of heat from hot weather, seems to be the very 
same thing and to have the very same effect upon the 
mind as thinking that we have no power of altering 
our character. We shall alter it, perhaps, when the de 
sire of amendment supervenes: well, we wdl await the 
desire, and when it comes, float out upon it to repen 
tance and amendment. 

It is of consequence what we think forms our cha 
racter, even when we have no present desire of a re 
formation. For it is important, as Mill well says, "that 
we should not be prevented from forming such a de 
sire." But we should be prevented, if we thought that 
the desire, when it came, would take hold of our minds, 
as the tide of a log lying upon the beach, without our 
seconding it, and without our being on the alert to 
transmute by our conscious sanction the spontaneous 
craving, the velleity for better things, into a solid and 
effective purpose of amendment. 

VII 

"And indeed, if we examine closely, we shall find 
that this feeling of our being able to modify our own 
character if we wish, is itself the feeling of moral free 
dom which we are conscious of. A person feels morally 
free who feels that his habits or his temptations are not 



JOHN STUART MILL 187 

his masters, but he theirs: who even in yielding to 
them knows that he could resist; that were he desirous 
of altogether throwing them off, there would not be 
required for the purpose a stronger desire than he knows 
himself to be capable of feeling. . . The free will doc 
trine, by keeping in view precisely that portion of the 
truth which the word Necessity puts out of sight, 
namely, the power of the mind to co-operate in the 
formation of its own character, has given to its adherents 
a practical feeling much nearer to the truth than has 
generally, I believe, existed in the minds of necessarians. 
The latter may have had a stronger sense of the impor 
tance of what human beings can do to shape the cha 
racters of one another; but the free will doctrine has, 
I believe, fostered in its supporters a much stronger 
spirit of self-culture." 

Here Mill has imitated the tactics of his admired 
master, Locke. I have remarked how Locke (11.9) shifts 
his ground, and without express adherence to free will 
nearly becomes a libertarian. And it has been observed 
of Mill, by one of the ablest of his opponents,* that he 
answers objections by yielding to them, and yet will 
not resign the pretensions of his school. The present 
passage, if it means anything, means a withdrawal of 
the application of the doctrine of invariable and uncon 
ditional sequence to the operations of the will. But 
Mill has not written a book of Retractations. 

Let us " examine closely," as he suggests, and ac 
cording to his description, " the feeling of moral free 
dom which we are conscious of." When we feel morally 

* John Grotc, in his Examination of the Utilitarian Ththsophy. It is 
an Oxford saying: "The best things in Mill are his admissions." 



1 88 FREE WILL 

free, we are conscious, according to Mill, of three facts: 
(i) that we are able to modify our own character, if we 
wish: (2) that we are masters of our habits and temp 
tations, not they of us: (3) that we could resist habit 
or temptation even when we yield to it. The first of 
these facts has already been discussed. The wishing, on 
which our ability to shape our character is conditioned, 
must rest consciously with us: else how can we be con 
scious of possessing that ability? As for the second fact, 
our conscious mastery over our habits and temptations, 
the said " habits " and " temptations " are the same as 
the "dispositions" and "motives" respectively, which 
Mill formerly declared to be the causes whence our 
actions flow in uniform sequence. But if the sequence 
is uniform, we are not masters of our actions, and there 
fore not of our habits and temptations: they rule us, 
not we them. Indeed this we is a new term, not intro 
duced before. Before there were antecedent circum 
stances followed by consequent acts; now there comes 
on the scene a person, a conscious agent, who claims 
the acts for his own and disputes the mastery of them 
with the circumstances. A transition appears to have 
been made from physics to psychology. The third fact 
which Mill learns from consciousness is that we can resist 
temptation even when we yield to it. The very thing 
that libertarians say, and the one thing that they care 
to keep to! The great champion of the uniformity of 
nature acknowledges free will, he avows that he is con 
scious of it. Let all that is here written against him be 
cast into the fire, and let his literary executors cancel 
his chapter on Liberty and Necessity, all except the 



JOHN STUART MILL 189 

present passage; and the little world that reads our 
books will be delighted with the unusual spectacle of 
a philosopher come to terms with his adversary. For 
if in yielding to a temptation we know that we can 
resist, we know that our yielding is not a sure con 
sequence of the circumstances of trial in which we 
stand. Therefore the chain of uniformity does not bind 
volition. Catching at a quibble to hold him from being 
drawn into this concession, Mill might insist that his 
word is could) not can resist; and he might explain 
himself to mean that we could resist, if circumstances 
were different, but cannot as they are. But is conscious 
ness of what we might help in another case, but can 
not help in the present, a consciousness of not being 
here and now overpowered? If this is freedom, no man 
ever was a slave, for never was man placed in circum 
stances in which he could not have broken his bonds had 
not the said bonds been there and then too strong for 
him. In Mill s work On Liberty there is a chapter "Of 
Individuality as one of the conditions of well-being." 
In that enthusiastic and paradoxical vindication of indi 
viduality, one may mark the loathing with which the 
author turned from rigid necessarianism, a loathing 
which has got the better of his respecT: for consistency, 
and wrung from him a confession of free will in the 
midst of a treatise that argues universal uniformity. 

VIII 

"What experience makes known is the facl: of an 
invariable sequence between every event and some 
special combination of antecedent conditions, in such 
sort that wherever and whenever that union of ante- 



1 90 FREE WILT. 

cedents exists, the event does not fail to occur. Any 
must in the case, any necessity, other than the uncon 
ditional universality of the fact, we know nothing of. 
. . . The so-called Necessitarians . . . affirm, as a truth 
of experience, that volitions do, in point of fact, follow 
determinate moral antecedents with the same unifor 
mity, and, when we have sufficient knowledge of the 
circumstances, with the same certainty as physical 
effects follow their physical causes. . . . This is what 
Necessitarians affirm, and they court every possible 
mode in which its truth can be verified. They test it 
by each person s observation of his own volitions. They 
test it by each person s observation of the voluntary 
actions of those with whom he comes into contact, and 
by the power which every one has of foreseeing actions 
with a degree of exactness proportioned to his previous 
experience and knowledge of the agents, and with a 
certainty often quite equal to that with which we pre 
dict the commonest physical events. They test it fur 
ther by the statistical results of the observation of 
human beings acting in numbers sufficient to elimi 
nate the influences which operate only on a few, and 
which on a large scale neutralise one another, leaving 
the total result about the same as if the volitions of the 
whole mass had been affected by such only of the deter 
mining causes as were common to them all. In cases 
of this description the results are as uniform, and may 
be as accurately foretold, as in any physical enquiries 
in which the effect depends upon a multiplicity of 
causes. The cases in which volitions seem too uncer 
tain to be confidently predicted are those in which our 
knowledge of the influences antecedently in operation 
is so incomplete, that with equally imperfect data there 
would be the same uncertainty in the predictions of the 
astronomer and chemist. On these grounds it is con- 



JOHN STUART MILL 191 

tc rule*.! that our choice between the conflicting incon- 
ceivables should be the same in the case of volitions 
as of all other phenomena; we must reject equally in 
both cases the hypothesis of spontaneousness, and con 
sider them all as caused. A volition is a moral effect, 
which follows the corresponding moral causes as cer 
tainly and invariably as physical effects follow their 
physical causes. Whether it must be so, I acknowledge 
myself to be entirely ignorant, be the phenomenon 
moral or physical; and I condemn, accordingly, the 
word Necessity as applied to either case. All I know is 
that it always does" 

This, and the following extracts, are from Mill s 
Examination oj Sir William Hamilton s Philosophy. Mill 
here repeats what he has written in his Logic, that is 
to say, he repeats Locke and Hume. I am, therefore, 
compelled to repeat myself. I count it no disadvantage, 
on a difficult topic, to be led into some repetition. 

We have experience of necessity, and of what Mill 
terms the "a priori must," quite as much as of inva 
riable sequence and the " a posteriori does." Experience 
is either immediate or mediate: it takes the form either 
of intuition or inference. W T e cannot be always, nor 
go everywhere; we cannot, therefore, gain immediate 
experience of the working of a law in all times and 
places. Creatures of a day, we cannot crowd an inva 
riable sequence into our field of view. If we know any 
such sequence, we know it only by inference, by as 
suming that an observed uniformity obtains beyond 
the sphere of observation. But how justify this infer 
ence, how warrant the passage from "It does so far as 
I have seen" to "It always does"? The a posteriori 



192 FREE WILL 

"does" does very well; but the a posteriori "will do," 
I fear, will not do. 

The a priori "must" comes to the rescue. If we 
know what must be, we have ground to predial what 
will be. How, then, do we know what must be? And, 
first, how do we conceive it? By considering our in 
tuitions of what is. Surely we do right to examine 
ideas which we have already got. We do no violence 
to experience by counting the treasure which experi 
ence has bestowed on us. Intuition of self reveals "I 
am," "I do," and thence "I can." The reverse of that 
is "I cannot"; whence, by reduplication of the nega 
tive, "I cannot not," which is "I must." Transferring 
the idea from self to not-self, we conceive "thou 
must," "it must." But when do we know that a thing 
must be ? So far as we are concerned, that must be 
which we find ourselves unable to prevent. To pre 
vent a thing by our personal exertions we require to 
know of it: ignorance in us means incapacity of inter 
ference. Given, therefore, an agent without under 
standing, we know that it cannot help whatever it does 
or suffers; that it must do all that it can do, and suffer 
all it can suffer under the circumstances in which it is 
placed; that it is, in fad, a necessary agent. Whatever 
it can do it does, and must do, if there be a term to 
work upon within its sphere of action. What a brute 
agent once does, it must ever do, ilne sail pas faire au- 
trement. This necessity cleaves to the substantial abi 
ding nature of a brute agent. To know that nature, 
then, in the present, contains a knowledge of its aclion 
in the future. A phenomenon of matter will be, because 



JOHN STUART MILL 193 

it must be. That positis ponemlis it must be we see in 
the cognition of the noumenon, the material substance 
which is at once the necessary agent, efficient cause of 
formerly observed phenomena, and the guarantee of 
like effects to follow under like conditions to come. 

Rational natures often act unconsciously: they wake 
up to consciousness of mental states not of their own 
choosing. But then they can refrain from enhancing 
such a state within themselves: at the same time they 
can enhance it. The fuller their reflection, the greater 
their liberty in this particular. Looking into them 
selves, they become masters of their affections. Thus 
they are free to will or, as the Elizabethan writers said, 
to afeff, or not to will and affect the objects that occur. 
But for this freedom, the verb can in our mouths 
would be foolish. "I can go to bed" means, in the first 
place, "I can make up my mind to do so." If my re 
solve were determined for me by the accidents of my 
position, it would be as idle for me, sitting in my chair, 
to say, "I can go to bed," as for the stones of West 
minster Abbey, could they find a voice, to cry to the 
Dean and Chapter assembled below, "We can fall and 
crush you." Allow the possible as distinct from the 
actual, and one must allow the impossible, and thence 
the necessary and the contingent. To deny necessity 
is to deny possibility and impossibility. But it is as 
egregious wilfulness in a psychologist to set aside any 
element of human consciousness as for a chemist to 
expel from his laboratory chlorine and its compounds, 
forsooth because he has a theory with which those 
bodies do not square. As such a theory of chemistry 

13 



194 FREE WILL 

would be "done all on one side," so, too, is the phi 
losophy one-sided that ignores necessity. And Mill 
does ignore necessity: he will not hear of it in physi 
cal science: he banishes it from the science of mind. 
Still the phrase, "It must be," has a meaning: every 
man understands it: a philosopher should take account 
of it. 

Mill alleges three proofs, not of the necessary, but 
of the invariable sequence of volitions from certain 
antecedents. He appeals, first, to self-consciousness. 
Here is room not so much for controversy as for re 
flection. Reflection upon self is indispensable to the 
psychologist. It is, nevertheless, a somewhat untrust 
worthy source of knowledge. Entering into ourselves, 
we see what we go to see, and few of us go to see 
ourselves as we are. However, there is one reason for 
thinking that the insincerity in this question rests not 
with those psychologists who affirm the consciousness 
of free will. For what does that imply? "My will is 
free," in the mouth of a man on earth, implies, among 
other things, this: "I am capable of sinning." That, 
again, if we consider who the speaker is, further im 
plies, to a greater or less extent, "I have sinned." Be 
lievers in free will believe in sin. One section, also, of 
disbelievers in free will have professed to believe in 
sin: I mean the Old Calvinists. The greater number, 
however, of disbelievers in free will, including all who 
deny the doctrine on other than theological grounds, 
have no belief in sin. They believe in noxious actions, 
restrainable by motives, but not in sinful actions. 
"Thou art the man" is not their word to the evil- 



JOHN STUART MILL 195 

doer. They would shield him with Adam s excuses, 
his wife, the serpent, his temper and his circumstances. 
They put crime in the same rank with disease: they 
would have a criminal operated on for his cure; not 
punished for his guilt. "Sweet shall be thy rest," says 
the author of the Imitation of Christ, "sweet shall be thy 
rest, if thy heart do not rebuke thee." The rest which 
phenomenalists enjoy ought to be delicious indeed: 
their heart cannot rebuke them, if they are, as they 
represent themselves, unconscious as babes of the very 
possibility of sinning. There is but one way heartily 
to enjoy this world; that is, to put sin out of the list 
of possibilities to be thought of. This comfortable way 
phenomenalists have found. But the author quoted 
above, speaking of ungodly men, who say they are at 
peace, gives this warning, "Believe them not, for the 
wrath of GOD shall rise of a sudden, and their deeds 
shall be brought to nothing, and their speculations 
shall perish." To deny sin is hardly the way to escape 
the wrath to come, if it be to come. And men know 
it is to come, and they know why, because in spite of 
themselves they know that they have sinned. The 
sense of sinfulness is written too deep in man s heart, 
it has operated too widely amongst mankind, to be a 
misconception, a psychological solecism. But it is no 
more unless the will be free. Sin impossible? Would 
it were so! But I fear that, were it not possible, men 
could never have imagined such a horror. I conclude 
that, of the philosophers who find free will in their 
consciousness and sin upon their conscience, and of 
those others who declare that they are unconscious 



196 FREE WILL 

alike of being free and of having sinned, the latter are 
the more likely to be deceiving themselves, and to 
have not the truth in them. 

Mill s second proof is borrowed from the fact that 
men can foretell each other s behaviour better or 
worse as they know more or less about one another. 
This fact proves nothing for him, if it stands as well 
with liberty as with uniformity in volition. And so it 
does. Free will is not indifference to motives: it is ab 
sence of any absolute constraint from the particular 
motive that is uppermost in the mind at any given 
moment. But there may be more or less an approach 
to constraint. A person is left more free under some 
motives than under others. A knowledge of his mo 
tives is a probable clue to his action. Still more is the 
probability of the estimate increased, if, along with 
motives, we know also his character, which we may 
know by knowing how he has behaved on similar 
occasions before. Every time a man does a thing, he 
diminishes his liberty of not doing it next time; 
he makes the act in some degree natural to him, and 
necessary in so far as it is natural. A habit is not 
broken without a special motive. The better a man s 
habits and motives are known, the more calculable his 
action becomes, calculable, I mean, with an ever in 
creasing probability. Nor do I care to deny that some 
of man s actions may be calculated with absolute 
certainty. Such actions, if such there be, are neces 
sary; but frequently they are what is called "free in 
their cause," being acts proceeding from a habit which 
was engendered originally of free acts. While Mill 



JOHN STUART MILL 197 

holds that all acts are absolutely calculable in them 
selves, and are relatively incalculable to us because of 
our ignorance of their antecedents, libertarians will 
have it that some acts are absolutely beyond calcula 
tion, as not following rigidly from antecedents. Neither 
view is inconsistent with the facts of our experience. 
Necessarianism is not provable a posteriori. 

Mill s third proof from "statistical results" shows 
no more than this, that many men are sure to do what 
all are inclined to do. Probability for each is certainty 
for some, out of a large number, but not for any defi 
nite individuals. Free will, however, is an attribute of 
men taken individually, not collectively. And antece 
dent probability of action is compatible with a degree 
of freedom. 

I reject, equally with Mill, "the hypothesis of spon- 
taneousness" about volitions, and "I consider them 
all as caused." That is to say, I do not believe an act 
of the will to come out of nothing, a causeless pheno 
menon. I hold that the person who wills causes his 
own volition, under certain motives as conditions. To 
Mill the person is nobody; that is why he would call 
a free act "spontaneous," meaning that it has no cause. 
I do not, however, agree that volitions are "caused" 
in Mill s sense of the term, or that an "explanation" 
can be found for them, as for physical events. 

"A volition," says Mill, "is a moral effect, which 
follows the corresponding moral causes as certainly and 
invariably as physical effects follow their causes." The 
absurdity of this proposition is manifest, when we con 
vert it into the following equivalent form: "A volition 



198 FREE WILL 

is a conscious act, which is done by a conscious agent 
or person, as necessarily as an unconscious act is done 
by an unconscious agent or thing." 

IX 

"To be conscious of free will must mean, to be 
conscious before I have decided that I am able to de 
cide either way. Exception may be taken in limine to 
the use of the word consciousness in such an applica 
tion. Consciousness tells me what I do or feel. But 
what I am able to do is not a subject of consciousness. 
Consciousness is not prophetic; we are conscious of 
what is, not of what will or can be. We never know 
that we are able to do a thing, except from having done 
it, or something equal and similar to it. We should 
not know that we were capable of action at all, if we 
had never acted. Having acted, we know, as far as that 
experience reaches, how we are able to act; and this 
knowledge, when it has become familiar, is often con 
founded with and called by the name of consciousness." 

/ do, I can, and I am, are three facets of the same 
truth, all three known together in present conscious 
ness. / do implies / can. I do and / can imply / am, 
for there is no activity nor power in non-existence. 
Again, / am signifies / can and also / do; there is no 
substantial being without power, and there is no 
power where there is no act, though outward action is 
not coextensive with power. / do in the present, / can 
in the present, and / am in the present. Mill acknow 
ledges the present truth of / do and / am, but not of 
/ can. He thinks that when I declare / can, I announce 
some future fact; but "consciousness," he says, "is 
not prophetic." Conscious I am of being, Mill allows, 



JOHN STUART MILL 199 

and conscious of doing, but not conscious of power. 
My belief in any power of my own he holds to be an 
inference from what I have done to what I shall do 
again in like circumstances. But surely, "I can do a 
thing" does not mean "I shall do it." When I act, I 
am conscious alike of action and of power, both in 
the present. The action passes, but the consciousness 
of power remains. There is nothing "prophetic" about 
it. It is true that we learn our powers by exercising 
them. And we learn that we have a free will by exer 
cising it. It is a consciousness that comes of experi 
ence. There is no innate idea of free will. The will 
is not free in childhood. To say that a child has come 
to the use of reason means that his will is now be 
ginning to assume command of his conduct. We learn 
to will as we learn to lift. There are weights that we 
cannot so much as stir. And about many circumstances 
and conditions of life our will is utterly powerless. We 
learn to know hard necessity, things that we cannot 
help, in contrast with what we can help. Necessity 
strikes us most when it is about feelings of our own, 
of a pleasurable or painful kind. Many such feelings, 
e.g., those of temperature in our own bodies, are partly 
under our control and partly beyond our control. 
Such experience especially helps on the cognition of 
free will. But free will comes out most of all in the 
matter of impulses. Moral education begins in the 
checking of impulses, notably those passionate out 
bursts of crying characteristic of infantsgenerally. Aided 
by much persuasive impulse from without, the child 
comes to cry a little less. There is nothing of free will 



200 



FREE WILL 



here, because there is not as yet any reflex conscious 
ness, nothing more than that formative process which 
we observe in the higher animals under the training 
of man. The assertion of self against impulse is very 
gradual. When that assertion takes definite shape, free 
will has begun. One day an impulse is curbed in this 
way; another day it is allowed free scope. But in 
giving it scope, the young agent remembers, " I helped 
crying, or getting angry, or frightened, yesterday." 
The inference thence is not beyond the range of a 
child of six or seven, " I might have helped getting 
angry to-day." There we have an initial consciousness 
of free will. There is nothing mysterious in the pro 
cess, nothing inconsistent with the nature of a con 
scious a<5t. It is a reading of one s own present state 
in the light of a remembered similar past. There is 
no reference at all to the future; nothing of the ele 
ment that Mill calls "prophetic." 

Mill s mistake, common to him with Locke, is that 
of confusing the will to act in a certain way with the 
power of executing such volition. Nothing certainly 
is more frequent than for people to fancy themselves 
conscious of abilities, which further experience proves 
that they do not possess. Conscious of his swimming 
powers, so he thinks, the unfortunate youth jumps 
into the quarry pond and is drowned. We have 
in such cases to distinguish between man and his cir 
cumstances. Man is conscious of what depends on 
himself; he is not conscious of what depends on cir 
cumstances. He makes an effort and hopes it will suc 
ceed. The effort is perhaps the main element of success, 



JOHN STUART MILL 201 

but it is not success. To be conscious of ability is to 
be conscious of that which in us lies, not of what lies 
without us. Therefore, * I am conscious I can swim, 
is a twofold judgement of consciousness and of infer 
ence. It comes to this: I am conscious I can try, and 
I argue from past experience that my attempt will be 
successful. The consciousness here is infallible, but 
further experience in unwonted circumstances may 
overthrow the inference. Hence we may learn to dis 
tinguish what truth there is in Mill s saying, that the 
assertion / can is " prophetic." So far as it means, * I 
can use my endeavours, the assertion / can is a fact 
of present consciousness: so far as it means, those 
endeavours will be adequate to the occasion, it is an 
inference from the past to the future. 

X 

"But this conviction, whether termed conscious 
ness or only belief, that our will is free what is it ? 
Of what are we convinced ? I am told that whether I 
decide to do or to abstain, I feel that I could have 
decided the other way. I ask my consciousness what I 
do feel, and I find, indeed, that I feel (or am con 
vinced) that I could have chosen the other course if 
1 had preferred it; but not that I could have chosen 
one course while I preferred another. When I say pre 
ferred, I, of course, include with the thing itself, all 
that accompanies it. . . Take any alternative: say to 
murder or not to murder. I am told that if I elect to 
murder, I am conscious that I could have elected to 
abstain: but am I conscious that I could have abstained 
if my aversion to the crime, and my dread of its con 
sequences, had been weaker than the temptation? If 



202 FREE WILL 

I elect to abstain, in what sense am I conscious that 
I could have elected to commit the crime ? Only if I 
had desired to commit it with a desire stronger than 
my horror of murder; not with one less strong. When 
we think of ourselves hypothetically as having acted 
otherwise than we did, we always suppose a difference 
in the antecedents : we picture ourselves as having 
known something that we did not know, or not known 
somethingthatwedidknow; which isa differencein the 
external motives; or as having desired something or dis 
liked something more or less than we did; which is a 
difference in the internal motives. I, therefore, dispute 
altogether that we are conscious of being able to act in 
opposition to the strongest present desire or aversion." 

Let us for a moment suppose that the doctrine, 
here laid down by Mill, is true. Let us take his exam 
ple of a man who has before him an alternative to mur 
der or not to murder. Then, if that man s aversion to 
the crime and his dread of its consequences are wea 
ker than the temptation, he cannot abstain from the 
murder: he needs must commit it in that case. If, on 
the other hand, his desire to commit the crime is wea 
ker than his horror of it, he cannot commit the mur 
der, but must needs abstain from it. Whence I argue 
thus. Either the temptation is stronger than the hor 
ror of the crime, or the horror of the crime is stronger 
than the temptation, the case of the two being equal 
is a blank. Which ever way it is, the man s election is 
necessitated; and as of this, so of every other election 
that a man may be called upon to make, all are neces 
sitated; therefore, the true theory of volition, as Mill 
expounds it, is absolute necessarianism. 



JOHN STUART MILL 203 

Having followed Mill to a goal which he himself 
somewhat deprecates, let us retrace our steps to the 
point where we differ from him. It is a slight point, so 
slight that he has overlooked its being a possible occa 
sion of difference. He " disputes altogether that we are 
conscious of being able to act in opposition to the 
strongest present desire or aversion." I dispute it also; 
indeed, in strict parlance, though, of course, not in the 
popular sense, I deny it. We cannot act in opposition 
to the strongest present desire, while that desire is at 
the present strongest. But frequently we are able to 
refrain from acting in accordance with the strongest 
present desire (or aversion). Suppose I have a desire 
to pull a house down because it is inconvenient, and 
also a desire to leave it standing because it is endeared 
to me by old associations. I cannot feel two such in 
compatible desires both at exactly the same instant, but 
I feel now one and now the other. Each in turn is the 
stronger at the instant at which I feel it, though one 
may be stronger than the other on the whole, as com 
ing oftener and being more intense when it does come. 
If the proposition, which Mill and I alike dispute, 
simply means that I can finally act against the desire 
which on the whole is stronger, I cannot stand with 
Mill, for the proposition in that sense is true. But if 
the meaning is that I can do the very reverse of what 
at the moment of my action I supremely long to do, 
I protest with Mill against the proposition. To me, as 
to Mill, it appears incredible that a man should choose 
one course, and at the same time prefer, altogether 
prefer, the reverse. Such a choice would turn the laws 



204 FREE WILL 

of volition topsy-turvy. Let us go back to the example 
of the house. At this instant, we will say, the desire 
of pulling down the building is uppermost in my soul. 
By the very fact that I have that desire now, I do not 
desire at the same moment to let the building stand. 
I have a spontaneous complacency in the idea of de 
struction; and that, while it lasts, prevents me from 
being complacent in the idea of conservation.* If I 
consummate any volition now by a reflex approval of 
a spontaneous complacency, the approval must fall on 
the complacency which I have now. I cannot at pre 
sent make up my mind to keep the house standing: for 
the one "bill," so to speak, at present awaiting my 
royal assent is a bill to pull it down. A man cannot 
will in opposition to, I do not say his animal or physi 
cal, but his psychical and volitional impulse while that 
impulse actually reigns; nor being spontaneously com 
placent in one purpose can he become then and there 
reflexly complacent in another. Thus far I go along 
with Mill. He proceeds tacitly to assume that a man 
must positively acl and reflexly will in accordance with 
his strongest present desire, and there I fall off" from 
him. I say the man can wait. Once more to the house. 
Desiring to pull the old place down I cannot resolve 
to keep it standing, but I can stay and view my desire. 
And while I view it, the desire fades away, and I re 
main thinking, but not willing, what I shall do with 
the old place. The desire to keep it now rises and be 
comes predominant. I cannot will to pull the building 

*The coiner s press must stamp just that bit of metal which at 
that moment lies under it, if at that moment it stamp? anything at all. 



JOHN STUART MILL 205 

down while I feel an actual desire to keep it; but at the 
same time I need not will to keep it. So I go on till at 
last I will in accordance with some present desire. 

When the volition is completed, I look back upon 
my ad. I say it was freely done, by which I mean, 
not that I could at the instant have acted otherwise, 
but that I could at the instant have refrained from 
acting in the way I did. In the moment when the act 
of my will was done, though I could not have acted 
otherwise, I need not have acted at all. I might have 
been quiescent: I might simply not have approved 
the complacency at that time being. Without any dif 
ference in the antecedents, without any learning of 
anything that I did not know, or becoming ignorant of 
aught that I did know, or desiring or disliking more 
or less than I spontaneously did desire or dislike, I 
might have held aloof from that complacency which 
I sanctioned and made into a full volition. But for me 
then to have embraced a different complacency, and to 
have performed a different act of the will, does sup 
pose a difference in the antecedents, just such a dif 
ference as Mill says "we always suppose when we think 
of ourselves hypothetically as having acted otherwise 
than we did." Mill s dictum is right, formally for the 
psychological instant of decision, but not for the whole 
of the deliberative process which is popularly called 
the "action."* 

See Locke, n. 9. 



206 FREE WILL 

XI 

"It is not the belief that we shall be made account 
able, which can be deemed to require or presuppose the 
free-will hypothesis; it is the belief that we ought so to 
be; that we are justly accountable; that guilt deserves 
punishment. It is here that the main issue is joined 
between the two opinions. In discussing it, there is no 
need to postulate any theory respecting the nature or 
criterion of moral distinctions. It matters not for this 
purpose whether the right and wrong of actions de 
pends on the consequences they tend to produce or 
on an inherent quality of the actions themselves. It 
is indifferent whether we are utilitarians or anti- 
utilitarians; whether our ethics rest on intuition or 
on experience. It is sufficient if we believe that there 
is a difference between right and wrong, and a natural 
reason for preferring the former. . . The real question 
is one of justice the legitimacy of retribution or 
punishment. On the theory of necessity, we are told, 
man cannot help acting as he does, and it cannot be 
just that he should be punished for what he cannot 
help. Not if the expectation of punishment enables 
him to help it, and is the only means by which he can 
be enabled to help it? ... There are two ends which 
on the necessitarian theory are sufficient to justify 
punishment: the benefit of the offender himself and 
the protection of others. The first justifies it, because 
to benefit a person cannot be to do him an injury. To 
punish him for his own good, provided the inflictor has 
any proper title to constitute himself ajudge, is no more 
unjust than to administer medicine. . . In its other 
aspect punishment is a precaution taken by society in 
self-defence. . . If it is possible to have just rights, it 
cannot be unjust to defend them. Free will or no free 
will, it is just to punish so far as is necessary for this 



JOHN STUART MILL 207 

purpose, exactly as it is just to put a wild beast to 
death, without unnecessary suffering, for the same ob 
ject. Now, the primitive consciousness we are said to 
have, that we are accountable for our actions, and that, 
if we violate the rule of right, we shall deserve punish 
ment, I contend is nothing else than our knowledge 
that punishment will be just; that by such conduct we 
shall place ourselves in the position in which our 
fellow-creatures, or the Deity, or both, will naturally 
and may justly inflict punishment upon us. By using 
the viordjust/y I am not assuming in the explanation 
the thing I profess to explain. As before observed, 
I am entitled to postulate the reality and the know 
ledge and feeling of moral distinctions." 

Mill is righting against an objection which may be 
put into syllogism thus. 

We cannot know that we ought to be punished for 
our misdeeds, without knowing also that our wills 
are free. 

But we do know that we ought to be punished for 
our misdeeds. 

Therefore we know also that our wills are free. 

Mill denies the major of this syllogism, and under 
takes to prove the contradictory, that we can know that 
we ought to be punished for our misdeeds, without 
knowing also that our wills are free; in other words, 
that the notion of just punishment does not involve 
the notion of free will. The way to prove this thesis 
would be to explain the meaning of the phrase, "we 
ought to be punished," and to show, if possible, that the 
phrase does not contain any reference to free will. But 
Mill starts with the surprising announcement that the 
reason of the right and wrong of actions, which explains 



2o8 FREE WILL 

why we ought to be punished when we do wrong, 
matters not for the purpose of his proof. Surely, it is 
on that very reason that the proof depends. How can 
anyone discuss why punishment is just, without his 
argument involving some view as to the essential 
nature of justice? But that again involves some theory 
of morals. Indeed, one of the greatest treatises on the 
theory of morals ever written, the Republic of Plato, 
starts from this very inquiry, What is justice? Mill s 
antagonists here contend that the denial of free will 
puts quite a new face on justice and just punishment; 
and that the ordinary notion of justice and just punish 
ment is founded on the assumption of free will; that 
consequently, to ordinary minds, to punish a man for 
a deed which there and then he could not help is 
unjust. Mill s reply, fair enough in its way, is that the 
ordinary notion of justice is altogether a mistake. He 
proceeds to inculcate instead his own notion of justice 
and just punishment, which is the blankest utilitari 
anism. Mill s compeer, Bain, correctly writes: "Assu 
ming that the imposition of punishment is the distinc 
tive property of acts held to be morally wrong, we are 
next to inquire on what grounds such acts are forbidden 
and hindered by all the force that society or individuals 
possess. What are the reasons or considerations re 
quiring each one to abstain from the performance of 
certain actions, and to concur in a common prohibition 
of them, enforced by stringent penalties? The answer 
to this is the theory of morals."* This is saying, and it 
is well said, that some theory of morals is implied in the 
belief that certain actions ought to be punished. How 

* Emotions and H lll, second edition, p. 254. 



JOHN STUART MILL 209 

then can Mill pretend that "it is indifferent whether 
we are utilitarians or anti-utilitarians?" His whole 
argument is constructed on a basis of utilitarianism. 
When a philosopher writes, " There is no need to 
postulate," let the reader beware, and till he sees it 
to be otherwise, let him expect that his author is going 
to take for granted the point which he says there is no 
need to postulate. It is not dishonesty on the philoso 
pher s part that prompts him to this stretch of the 
" privy paw." The stealth is ascribable to a mixture of 
zeal and mistrust. Observing some pet doctrine in 
want of a particular support, and doubting of our 
ability to secure it in face of the opposition of our 
adversary, we yield to the nervous eagerness of desire 
which makes men say the reverse of what they should 
say, and we bid the other party distinctly to take notice 
how we scorn that support on which all the while our 
doctrine rests. Thus Mill needs the utilitarian morality 
to bear out his assertion, that crime ought to be pun 
ished, free will or no free will. But his opponents are not 
utilitarians, and to convert them is not worth his while 
to try. Therefore he denies his need, at the same time 
taking what he needs for granted. He lays down utili 
tarian definitions concerning crime and punishment 
and justice. He lays beside them the necessarian prin 
ciple, that a man cannot help the crime that he com 
mits. He applies the said definitions to the said prin 
ciple, and the result appears accordingly, that it is just 
to punish a man for the crime that he cannot help. In 
other words, it is expedient for the greatest happiness 
of the greatest number, that a man who has been com- 



210 FREE WILL 

pelled to mar that happiness for want of a motive to 
maintain it, should suffer such an amount of pain as 
shall furnish a motive to compel him on the next temp 
tation to respect the common interests of humanity. 
A just procedure, on condition that crime be made 
out an accident, punishment a surgical operation, 
justice expediency, and man a motive-worked automa 
ton. At that rate I readily understand how, " free will 
or no free will, it is just to punish so far as is neces 
sary for this purpose, exactly as it is just to put a wild 
beast to death." 

Utilitarianism is a ruthlessly logical system, but it 
is not a system of morals. Elsewhere I have styled it 
" an abyss of chaos and confusion," in which " moral 
philosophy finds her grave."* Abiding by that verdict, 
I say that to punish a man for what he cannot help is 
an insult to the dignity and a violation of the rights of 
man. To punish is not simply to pain: it is to pain and 
to blame together. Though it be sometimes just, for 
a man s own benefit and for the protection of others, 
to make him suffer pain for what he cannot help, it can 
never be just to blame him for what he cannot help. The 
castigations which we inflict on children and brute 
animals are only styled punishments in an improper 
sense of the term, inasmuch as they are not accom 
panied with moral reproach. It is from an exclusive 
study of this improper sense that utilitarians have 
evolved their theory of punishment, a theory which 
supposes that a wicked man, a " naughty boy," and a 

* Ethics and Natural Law, Stonyhurst Series, pp. 177-189. 



JOHN STUART MILL 211 

restive horse, are all on a level as objects of punishment. 
A moment s consideration destroys this supposition. 
Man, boy, and horse receive stripes alike; but the man 
is blamed severely, the boy perhaps slightly, the horse 
not at all. The blame is an essential portion of the man s 
punishment; it is that which gives it the sting. The 
animosity shown against men of blood, marking them 
off from mere beasts of prey, Mill would set down to 
the desire to see an example made of noxious men, lest 
they should breed imitators. That is indeed a reason why 
the murderer should suffer. But it is not a reason for 
holding him in abomination. Abomination is not pro 
spective, precautionary, prudential, as Mill would 
have the entire treatment of wrong-doers to be. To 
punish is not to dispense suffering as a chemist dispen 
ses drugs: punishment is sufferingattended with blame. 
Blame supposes that the delinquent could and ought 
to have done otherwise. 

As there seems to be something incompatible with 
utilitarian ideas in the reprobation heaped on crime 
by the common people, it will be desirable in the day 
when criminals shall be confined among the beasts, for 
some disciple of Mill to stand beside the cages to 
rectify the vulgar errors of the visitors. The tenor of 
his lecture might be as follows: 

" That bear there you observe, ladies and gentle 
men, yesterday morning hugged his keeper: the man 
was carried out dead from that fatal embrace. The 
animal in the next compartment is a man, who has 
murdered his wife. As the other bears are not likely 



212 FREE WILL 

to be influenced by that one bear s example, it has not 
been thought necessary to punish him: but the new 
keeper has received instructions not to take liberties 
with his charge. The man, however, is to be made a 
warning to his fellows. It were in evil precedent for 
our species if a husband could kill his wife with im 
punity. Therefore is he deprived of his liberty, and 
any afternoon at one o clock you may see him publicly 
flogged. Not that his guilt is greater than the bear s: 
but prudence requires that he should undergo a more 
exemplary punishment. Be pleased, therefore, not to 
censure, blame, loathe or abominate the man any more 
than you loathe the brute. You call the murderer a 
brute, and it is well you should: only remember that 
nature made him what he is, no less inevitably than 
she made the bear. The keeper s death took place in 
accordance with an invariable law. Had he indeed not 
enraged the animal, the law would not have come into 
operation. But he did enrage the animal, and the animal 
killed him necessarily. You do not blame Bruin for 
that. The man is as blameless as the bear. He had 
from nature, to start with, a certain organisation and 
certain susceptibilities of character. He grew up in 
the midst of circumstances, which followed other cir 
cumstances in unvarying sequence, like the heat and 
cold, and sun and rain, under which a water-lily springs 
on the bosom of a lonely lake. A plant s growth is 
determined by two fadors, germinal capacity and en 
vironment: so is a man s character made for him by 
nature and by circumstances. This poor fellow could 
not help killing his wife. There are motives which 



JOHN STUART MILL 213 

would have saved him from the crime, but they were 
out of his reach. He had them not, and could not get 
them. If his wife had been wearing an iron helmet, 
the blow would not have proved fatal. But she had 
no helmet to wear, and so was fain to die, as her hus 
band was fain to kill. One is no more to be blamed 
than the other for what neither could help. It was the 
uniformity of nature, the same which tempers the 
heat of the sun and measures the orbit of the moon, 
that brought the husband to strike with the cleaver 
and the wife to die of the wound. Let us hope, ladies 
and gentlemen, that nature is not steadily preparing, 
in the order of her sure sequences, a similar fate for 
you and me." 

This, it will be said, is turning philosophy into buf 
foonery. It may be buffoonery, but, to the writer at 
least, it is not mirth. It saddens my heart to read 
utterances like the following: "You discern nothing 
while your eye is fixed on Archelaus himself. . . But 
when you turn to the persons whom he has killed, 
banished, or ruined . . . there is no lack of argument 
to justify that sentiment which prompts a reflecting 
spectator to brand him as a disgraceful man. . . It will 
indeed be at once seen that the taint or distemper with 
which Archelaus is supposed to inoculate himself when 
he commits signal crime ... is a pure fancy or poetical 
metaphor on the side of Plato himself."* To say that 
sin is no stain is to say that it is not sin. A criminal 

*Grote s Plato, n, 109, ill. There is nothing "disgraceful" in 
being a usurper and a tyrant, if one cannot help it. Men should not 
be reproached for their natural defects nor for the circumstances of 
their education. 



2i 4 FREE WILL 

in this view is toned down to a hurtful agent: "a 
Borgia and a Catiline" appear no worse than " storms 
and earthquakes." Wicked men certainly are influenced 
by motives, hurricanes are not. The inference which 
I should draw, as an utilitarian, measuring moral evil 
by material damages, is that hurricanes are more wicked 
than men, as being more incorrigibly noxious. A deed 
of ours which we cannot help may hurt our fellow- 
men, but we are quite aware that that is no sin. We 
should not resent being put to inconvenience to pre 
vent the recurrence of the mishap, being shut up by 
ourselves, for instance, when we have unwittingly com 
municated an infection. But we should resent being 
punished for it, that is, being reproached as well as 
inconvenienced. It is the earliest excuse of a child, 
I could not help it. The stupid, rude answer, But I ll 
make you help it, has a ring of tyranny and injustice 
in the ear of a little one. 

One last word on the theory of punishment. The 
theory, as we have seen, needs to be modified to fit in 
with the hypothesis of determinism. But, I observe, 
not only does the theory, as a theme of academic 
discussion, need modification: an important change 
must likewise be made in our criminal jurisprudence, 
and in the practice of our courts of justice, those 
arbiters of life and death. I refer to the case of the 
criminal lunatic, afflidled with homicidal mania. Like 
other madmen, these unhappy persons are by no means 
inaccessible to motives, especially of the more violent 
sort. It is quite possible to inspire them with fear and 
so deter them from offending; and this possibility is 



JOHN STUART MILL 215 

greater, and the deterrent more effectual, ere they have 
yet shed blood. These early stages of the malady should 
be contemplated by the preventive eye of the judge. 
If a new legal maxim were introduced, and enforced 
by example before the eyes of all men, that insanity 
shall no longer enter into the verdict, and that crimi 
nal lunatics henceforth shall be hung for homicide as 
inexorably as other murderers are hung, then persons 
of unsettled reason, and others whose criminal habits 
are gradually unsettling their reason, would have a 
strong motive provided them to keep them from 
shedding blood, and this provision would be a notable 
addition to the safety of the community. Why should 
not the law provide this additional security ? If any 
criminal at all should be hung for murder on deter- 
minist principles, we should hang the criminal lunatic 
for murder. Of all dangerous persons he is the most 
dangerous: his type is the most clearly marked: his 
character is the most set, and his execution would be 
the most exemplary. 

The sole reason for sparing the life of this dangerous 
person is drawn from the ancient belief of that Chris 
tianity in which European States were conceived and 
nurtured, the belief that, not being a free agent, the 
lunatic is not responsible for his deed; that with his 
character and under his circumstances he could not 
help it; that, therefore, he has not sinned before GOD, 
and, consequently, should not be visited with extreme 
punishment by man.* Civilly noxious, and, therefore, 

* " Never by human judgement ought a man to be punished with 
the pain of the lash (pana flagelli), so as to be put to death, or 



216 FREE WILL 

to be kept in confinement, he is still morally inno 
cent, and retains the right of a man to live, a right 
which no man forfeits except voluntarily and freely, 
by choosing to behave like a wild beast.* This poor 
lunatic still claims the benefit of the medieval axiom: 
"The life of the just makes for the preservation and 
promotion of the good of the community; and, there 
fore, it is nowise lawful to slay the innocent. "f 

But all these considerations of the old libertarianism 
are swept away by modern determinism, as ruthlessly 
as they were abolished by Hobbes. To any determinist, 
or necessarian, a punishable murderer is not one who, 
being what he was by nature and character, and tempted 
as he found himself, could possibly have acted other 
wise than as he did act to the slaying of his fellow- 
man: he is simply a highly noxious element of society, 
whose extirpation will be a good riddance, and will act 
as a motive to deter similar characters from imitating 
his conduct. If the determinist judge will hang any 
man, let him hang this criminal lunatic. 

XII 

"If any one thinks that there is justice in the 
infliction of purposeless suffering, that there is a natu 
ral affinity between the two ideas of guilt and punish- 

maimed, or beaten with [grievous] stripes, without his own fault. 
But with the pain of loss (paena damn ?) one is punished even in 
human judgement without fault, but not without cause." Aqui 
nas, Sum. Theol. 23 zae, q. cviii, art. 4 ad 2. 

* I beseech the reader to whom these ideas are strange to study 
them in St Thomas, Sum. Theol. 2a zx, q. Ixiv, articles I, 2, 3, 6; 
they may be read in English in dquinas Sthicus, n, pp. 39-42, 46; 
cf. Ethics and Batumi Law, pp. 203, 349, 350. 

t St Thomas, I.e. 



JOHN STUART MILL 217 

merit, which makes it intrinsically fitting that wherever 
there has been guilt, pain should be inflicted by 
way of retribution, I acknowledge that I can find no 
argument to justify punishment inflicted on this prin 
ciple. As a legitimate satisfaction to feelings of indig 
nation and resentment which are on the whole salutary 
and worthy of cultivation, I can in certain cases admit 
it; but here it is still a means to an end. The merely 
retributive view of punishment derives no justification 
from the doctrine I support. But it derives quite as 
little from the free-will doctrine. Suppose it true that 
the will of a malefactor, when he committed an offence, 
was free, or, in other words, that he acted badly, not 
because he was of a bad disposition, but for no reason 
in particular, it is not easy to deduce from this the con 
clusion that it is just to punish him. That his acts were 
beyond the command of motives might be a good 
reason for keeping out of his way, or placing him 
under bodily restraint; but no reason for inflicting pain 
upon him, when that pain, by supposition, could not 
operate as a deterring motive. While the doctrine I 
advocate does not support the idea that punishment in 
mere retaliation is justifiable, it at the same time fully 
accounts for the general and natural sentiment of its 
being so. From our earliest childhood the ideas of 
doing wrong and of punishment are presented to our 
mind together, and the intense character of the im 
pressions causes the association between them to attain 
the highest degree of closeness and intimacy. Is it 
strange, or unlike the usual processes of the human 
mind, that in these circumstances we should retain the 
feeling, and forget the reason on which it is grounded? 
But why do I speak of forgetting? In most cases the 
reason has never in our early education been presented 
to the mind. The only ideas presented have been those 



2i8 FREE WILL 

of wrong and punishment, and an inseparable associa 
tion has been created between these directly, without 
the help of any intervening idea. This is quite enough 
to make the spontaneous feelings of mankind regard 
punishment and a wrong-doer as naturally fitted to 
each other as a conjunction appropriate in itself, in 
dependently of any consequences." 

There is no strategic advantage in marching in force 
upon a position entirely removed from the seat of war. 
" He acted badly for no reason in particular " is such 
an irrelevant position in the present controversy: no 
necessarian need attack what no libertarian holds. Of 
course the malefactor acts for some reason and some 
motive: of course certain reasons and motives appeal 
strongly to his peculiar disposition. But every true 
human act, though necessarily done on some motive, 
is not done according to one motive rather than 
according to another except under the conscious 
superintendence and final arbitrement of the presiding 
Ego. Whichever way the arbitrement goes, it goes 
upon "some reason in particular": the crux of the 
question is, Why upon this reason rather than upon 
that? Libertarians assert that no "why" of physical 
determination, like the " whys " of physical science, 
is assignable; and that, therefore, "moral" science is 
not, what necessarians make it, a "physical" science. 
For my own part I should keep out of the way of a 
man to whom it was the same thing to have a motive, 
supervening upon a particular disposition, and to act 
accordingly. Such is the behaviour of somnambulists, of 
patients in delirium and of lunatics generally, but not 



JOHN STUART MILL 219 

of men in their right senses. A man in his right senses, 
that is to say, a free agent, is one whose ads are not 
beyond the command of motives, nor yet wholly 
within the command of motives. Give a person a mo 
tive, and you incline him to act; you do not compel 
him. Motives, therefore, are useful means to employ, 
though they do not quite act like weights in a scale. 
It is advisable to lead your horse to the water, even 
though you cannot make him drink. He certainly will 
not drink unless he comes to water. And thus much 
of deterrent punishment on the theory of free will. 

Now for free will and retributive punishment. An 
evil deed freely done calls for retribution. Not only 
should repetition be guarded against in the future, 
but the past wrong should be revenged. There should 
be " sorrow dogging sin." This is the keynote of tra 
gedy, to which the human heart has responded sym 
pathetically in all ages. 

kpaaavra Tra&tv, 
rpiytpwv /tuOoc TriSe fytovti. 

What is it that a man does when he commits a crime ? 
He does damage, and he does wrong: his act is evil 
physically and morally. The damage is to be repaired 
and hindered from recurring, like any other damage. 
If it is a wound inflicted, we send the patient to the 
hospital, and lay restraints upon the hasty temper and 
violent hand of the striker. Thus the physical evil is 
corrected. But the offending person has not only done 
damage, a stone may do that: he has, moreover, willed 

* ^Eschylus, Qkofphori, 314. 



220 FREE WILL 

to do damage, freely and wantonly. He himself per 
sonally was the main author of the mischief, not his 
motives. Without motives he could not have done 
evil: but the motives that he had were void of effect 
without his sanction. Not only, therefore, shall we la 
bour to readjust his motives; we shall also blame him 
for having yielded to his motives as they stood, and 
blaming him we shall avenge the majesty of the moral 
law upon him, making him suffer for the wrong that 
he has freely done. 

Man starts life with much good about him, the gift 
of nature and of GOD. He has as a duty of serving the 
Giver by keeping the law of nature; and that law he 
will discern in various measures according to circum 
stances of age, place and race. He can and he ought 
to help himself by the aid of his liberty to keep the 
law, as he understands it, and as the observance of it 
lies within his power. If he wilfully breaks the law, 
not as it binds me, and as it would be atrocious fcr 
me to break it, but as it binds him, and with a dis 
obedience atrocious even in him, then he has entered 
upon a quarrel with his Maker, in which he, the man, 
is the aggressor. God essentially loves Himself and 
hates whatever is opposed to Him. He cannot be op 
posed but by a free agent. Ill will alone can set up 
against the Almighty; and an ill will is the single ob 
ject of His hate. GOD, we are told, is love. The earth and 
the fullness thereof is the monument which GOD S love 
has built. But if His love is so efficacious, His hatred 
is not feeble. St Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises, in the 
first Exercise on sin, puts before us the case of a man, 



JOHN STUART MILL 221 

no matter who, "who for one mortal sin has gone to 
hell ": he bids us ponder " how in sinning and acting 
against Infinite Goodness such a one has been justly 
damned forever." Eternal punishment is the consum 
mation of retributive justice, a consummation to over 
awe, but not to astonish us. We are not to be sur 
prised at wilful, flagrant opposition to the Supreme 
Goodness having its issue in endless evil. Holiness 
and happiness are in GOD. It is not unnatural that 
he who cuts himself off from holiness, should be cut 
off f-om happiness ; and that impiety, if not accom 
panied with misery, should at any rate end in misery. 
Whoever renounces the law cannot expect to retain 
the joy of the LORD. Whoever will not share GOD S 
holiness, shall not share His happiness. We say com 
monly that man sins and GOD punishes. We might put 
it otherwise that man, so far as in him lies, casts off 
GOD, and then finds himself forlorn. Punishment is 
not so much the remedy as the result of sin. When 
GOD leaves things to take their course, the sinner is 
chastised: mercy is more of a divine interference than 
justice. When the angels sinned, we are told, " their 
place was no more found in heaven." * Heaven had 
become for them a foreign country, a climate in which 
they could not thrive, and they fell down as dead 
leaves drop from the trees in autumn. 

The separation of the wicked from GOD, and their 
consequent destruction, are thus pictured by Plato: 

GOD, as the old tradition declares, holding in His hand 
the beginning, middle and end of all that is, moves according 
* Apocalypse xii, 8. 



222 FREE WILL 

to His nature in a straight line towards the accomplishment 
of His end. Justice always follows Him, and is the punisher 
of those who fall short of the divine law. To that law he 
who would be happy holds fast and follows it in all humi 
lity and order ; but he who is lifted up with pride, or 
money, or honour, or beauty, who has a soul hot with 
folly and youth and insolence, and thinks that he has no 
need of a guide or ruler, but is able himself to be the guide 
of others, he, I say, is left deserted of GOD, KaraAfnrrrcu tpripof 
Oeov ; and being thus deserted he takes to him therso who 
are like himself, and dances about in wild confusion, and many 
think that he is a great man, but in a short time he pays a 
penalty which justice cannot but approve, and is utterly de 
stroyed.* 

Mill and his school enter vigorous protests against 
any introduction of theology into philosophy. But 
natural theology is a part of philosophy, the end and 
crown of the science. To treat of crime and of pun 
ishment, without reference to the Supreme Ruler and 
Judge of all the earth, is impossible to a serious 
theist. 

Having spoken of chastisements immediately divine, 
I pass to those inflicted by civil society. Is it right for 
civil society to punish one of its members merely with 
a view to satisfaction for a past offence, without hope 
either of the reformation of the culprit or the protec 
tion of society? It is not right, as I will show with all 
possible brevity. To punish, one must have authority 
over the delinquent. Against an equal there exists the 
right of self-defence but not of punishment. The 
awarding of punishments is a function of distributive 
ustice, the actual exercise of which justice belongs to 

* Lotus, 716, Jowett s translation. 



JOHN STUART MILL 223 

rulers, not to subjects.* The civil ruler must not 
punish beyond the measure of his authority. That 
measure is determined by the end of civil govern 
ment, which end is the temporal happiness of the civil 
community, that the citizens may live together in peace 
and justice, with a sufficiency of wordly goods, and 
with so much of moral probity as is requisite for the 
outward good order and happiness of the State. f The 
civil magistrate cannot punish, motu proprio, except 
for this end. To the extent to which this end may 
reasonably be expected to be furthered, to that extent, 
and not beyond, may pains and penalties be imposed 
by the civil power. 

But, though the State should not punish any man 
further than there is a prospect of good to mankind, 
yet the punishment inflicted under this limitation is 
retributive as well as corrective. A murderer should 
not be hung, except where the hanging is likely to 
hinder bloodshed; but when he his hung in that likeli 
hood, men may well rejoice that he has got his deserts. 
We may rejoice to see sin expiated by suffering, 
though we should not inflict suffering on another 
person without his consent, solely for the expiation of 
his sins. We blame sin wherever we discover it. But, 
in order to award pain as well as blame, that is, to 
award punishment to a sinner, the civil magistrate 
should have some prospect of amending the offender 
or protecting society against him and his example. A 
wicked man deserves punishment, but his fellow-men 

* St Thomas Aquinas, Summa, 2a, 2X, q. Ixi, art. I ad 3. 
t Suarez, De Lcgibus, \. m, c. I i, n. 7. 



224 FREE WILL 

are not always the persons to punish him. Where they 
have the right to inflict punishment for their own 
purposes, they become, at the same time, the ministers 
of the vengeance of the LORD, and should consider 
themselves as such. 

Mill draws an argument from "the punishment of 
crimes committed in obedience to a perverted con 
science." He alludes by name to Ravaillac and Bal- 
thasar Gerard. Men like these, he thinks, are justly 
immolated to political expediency, without any regard 
to the "state of mind of the offender, further than 
as this may affect the efficacy of punishment as a means 
to its end." I observe that laws are made to deal with 
fads as they ordinarily occur. If a criminal s conscience 
has been perverted, it is commonly his own fault. The 
law, therefore, will not admit the plea of perversion 
of conscience. It supposes guilt in the man who, being 
of sound mind, does a criminal aft. 

These, then, are the positions which I advance 
against Mill, (i) It is unjust to punish a man, blame 
and distress him, for a deed which he could not help. 
(2) Even for deeds that he could help, the civil power 
should never punish a man further than the good of 
society requires; but within that limit he should be 
punished as well as in retribution for the past as in 
precaution against the future. (3) GOD does justly 
punish in certain cases by way of mere retaliation for 
the wrong done to His Divine Majesty. 

One word in conclusion on the educational bearing 
of this discussion, as our pedagogists now insist on 
psychology for teachers. Let free will be an article of 



JOHN STUART MILL 225 

the teacher s psychological creed, if not on the higher 
ground of truth, then on the lower ground of utili 
tarian and pragmatic expediency. Where free will is 
denied, punish as we may, the training of the young 
in virtue will prove no easy task. When a child is 
punished, unless he confess at heart that he deserves 
it for his own waywardness and wilfulness, the pun 
ishment will not appear to him in any moral light 
but as a mere odious infliction. If there is no self- 
reproach, no iteration of the rod will ever lead a delin 
quent to think that wrong-doing is wrong and ought 
to be punished. His thought will be that, unfortu 
nately, it is hard to do forbidden things and escape 
scot-free, a widely different conclusion. But self- 
reproach brings in the consciousness of free will: we 
do not reproach ourselves for what we think we could 
not help. Evil, inevitable under the circumstances, is 
a matter of pure compassion. 

XIII 

" Suppose that there were two peculiar breeds of 
human beings, one of them so constituted from 
the beginning that, however educated or treated, no 
thing could prevent them from always feeling and 
acting so as to be a blessing to all whom they ap 
proached; another, of such original perversity of na 
ture that neither education nor punishment could 
inspire them with a feeling of duty, or prevent them 
from being active in evil-doing. Neither of these races 
of human beings would have free will; yet the former 
would be honoured as demigods, while the latter would 
be regarded and treated as noxious beasts: not punished 

15 



226 FREE WILL 

perhaps, since punishment would have no effect upon 
them, and it might be thought wrong to indulge the 
mere instinct of vengeance: but kept carefully at a 
distance, and killed like other dangerous creatures 
when there was no other convenient way of being 
rid of them. We thus see that even under the utmost 
possible exaggeration of the doctrine of necessity the 
distinction between moral good and evil in conduct 
would not only subsist, but would stand out in a more 
marked manner than now, when the good and the 
wicked, however unlike, are still regarded as of one 
common nature." 

If we consider a man s act apart from the manner 
in which it is elicited, in other words, if we abstract 
from free will and determinism, neither affirming nor 
denying either, no doubt a distinction between good 
and evil actions might still be kept up. Nay, even under 
the denial of free will, the action which we now know 
as good remains good, and the action which we know 
as evil remains evil. But under such denial we should 
regard the doers of such actions in quite a different light 
from that in which we view good men and bad men 
now. On this point I have written elsewhere: 

And first of what remains of our present moral system, 
when it comes to be worked on determinist principles. The 
Ten Commandments remain unchanged. The list of vices and 
virtues remains unchanged. The ethical motives for virtue and 
against vice remain unchanged. The State continues to frame 
laws, commanding and forbidding the same things as before. 
The same conduct is praised and rewarded, or blamed and 
punished, as before, albeit not quite with the same intention. 
The portraits of the good man and of the bad man respectively 
have lost none of their external lineaments. The one is still 



JOHN STUART MILL 227 

self-controlled and self-denying, brave, loving, magnanimous 
and just. The other remains a sensualist, cruel and cowardly, 
frivolous, idle, heartless and untrustworthy. Nero is still bad, 
and Paul good. The exigencies of human nature and of hu 
man society have not lost their value. The good and happi 
ness of the individual, and the prosperity of the society to 
which he belongs, require of him the same conduct as before. 
Goodness has not become less profitable, nor wickedness less 
detrimental and deplorable, now that both are recognised 
necessities. Wickedness is what it was in every respect save 
one; and the same deeds are wicked that were wicked. Good 
ness has lost only one of its attributes. Formerly the good man 
did what it befitted a man to do, having at the same time in 
the very act and circumstances of his well-doing the power to 
swerve from goodness: still he does the same things, but fur 
ther it is to be noted that, with his charadler and circumstances, 
he cannot help doing them. And conversely of the wicked man, 
who is rightly enough pronounced by the determinist a dan 
gerous, disgusting and offensive animal. Ugly conduct fits in 
with the determinist hypothesis as well as ugly architecture. 
We praise a flower, or a gun, or the "points" of a horse. 
There would be no difficulty in praising in that way a man 
in whose conduit we recognised no free will. Still he might 
be to us a grand fellow, a very useful creature. We might 
further encourage him with prospective praise, as an induce 
ment to serve us still better, much in the same way that a 
driver pats his horse and utters kind cries to it on a hard 
road. Such praise, however, and the corresponding blame, 
cannot be called moral approbation and reprobation.* 

There are two cases conceivable in which no edu 
cation nor treatment could prevent a human being 
from going about doing good in this world. The 
first would be the case of a being too unsusceptible of 
education, too stupidly insensible of the treatment he 
received, to be diverted from gratifying a blind incli- 
* Political and Moral Essays, pp. 253-255. 



228 FREE WILL 

nation that he had to make himself agreeable and pro 
fitable to others, a being that would exercise among 
men a genial and healthy influence, as a tench is said 
to do amongst fishes, without understanding. Such a 
being, though useful, would not be morally good, nor 
would his utility be of the highest order; indeed he 
would be scarcely human. Secondly, we may conceive 
a man, possessed of such a lively and ever actual in 
sight into the paramount excellence of doing good, 
that he would no more think of failing to do good in 
seasonable circumstances, notwithstanding any per 
verse training or harsh treatment that he might have 
undergone, than we should think of cutting off our 
heads to appease our hunger. This man s will would 
not be free to turn away from doing good. At the 
same time he would be a moral agent, as distinguished 
from a physical one, for he would act with an appre 
ciation of what he did. His would be a case of an in 
tellectual necessity, similar to the necessity under 
which GOD and the angels and saints are of being holy, 
from seeing the clear vision of the beauty of holiness. 
Brute necessity, on the other hand, is the state of an 
agent that must act, without knowing what it does. 
Brute necessity is incompatible with either moral ex 
cellence or turpitude: intellectual necessity is incom 
patible with moral evil, but quite compatible with 
moral good. 

A human being, lying under a brute necessity of 
evil doing, may be discussed in three shapes. In the 
first place, he may do evil from stupidity, not mean 
ing what he does: but then it is no moral evil. Mill 



JOHN STUART MILL 229 

seems to have wished to exclude this case by his phrase 
"adive in evil-doing." Secondly, we may speak of 
"an original perversity of nature," that intends known 
evil with a resistless necessity from the first. Such a 
being would not be of sound mind: would be what is 
called a " criminal lunatic " ; and his aclions, horrible ot 
themselves, would not be morally evil in him. Lastly, 
we may conceive human beings with their wills set in 
wickedness, whence no motive can convert them, not, 
however, created in this state, but having come to it 
by their own abuse of their free will. Such men would 
be in the state and condition of devils. Of the devils 
St Thomas writes, "The evil angels sin mortally in all 
things whatsoever they do of their own will,"* and 
he assigns as a reason this property of angelic nature, 
that when once an angel takes a decisive resolution, 
his will becomes eternally fixed in the same: "The 
free will of man is flexible one way and another both 
before and after election; whereas the free will of an 
angel is flexible before election, but not after."f Such 
a life, however, we may venture to think, is not studded 
and diversified with a multitude of distinct sins, but 
is one long sin, the beginning of which was a free acl, 
albeit the continuance is a necessity. We see some 
approximation to this state in a confirmed habit of vice 
even in a man on earth. 

* Sumrtta, la zx, q. Ixxxix, art. 4. t la, q. Ixiv, art. 2. 



230 FREE WILL 

XIV 

" Real fatalism is of two kinds. Pure, or Asiatic 
fatalism, the fatalism of the QEdipus, holds that our 
actions do not depend upon our desires. Whatever our 
wishes may be, a superior power, or an abstract destiny, 
will overrule them, and compel us to ad, not as we de 
sire, but in the manner predestined. Our love of good 
and hatredof evil are of no efficacy, and thoughinthem- 
selves they may be virtuous, as far as conduct is con 
cerned, it is unavailing to cultivate them. The other 
kind, modified fatalism I will call it, holds that our 
actions are determined by our will, and our will by our 
desires, and our desires by the joint influence of the 
motives presented to us and of our individual cha 
racter; but that, our character having been made for 
us and not by us, we are not responsible for it, nor for 
the actions it leads to, and should in vain attempt to 
alter them. The true doctrine of the Causation of hu 
man actions maintains, in opposition to both, that not 
only our conduct, but our character, is in part amen 
able to our will; that we can, by employing the proper 
means, improve our character, and that if our character 
is such that while it remains what it is, it necessitates 
us to do wrong, it will be just to apply motives which 
will necessitate us to strive for its improvement, and 
so emancipate ourselves from the other necessity: in 
other words, we are under a moral obligation to seek 
the improvement of our moral character. . . When we 
voluntarily exert ourselves, as it is our duty to do, for 
the improvement of our character, or when we act in 
a manner which, either consciously on our part or 
unconsciously, deteriorates it, these, like all other 
voluntary acts, presuppose that there was already 
something in our character, or in that combined with 



JOHN STUART MILL 231 

our circumstances, which led us to do so, and accounts 
for our doing so." 

The interest of this interesting passage, with which 
the previous passage, n. 5, the reply to the Owenite, 
should be compared, lies in the affirmation that "not 
only our conduct, but our character, is in part ame 
nable to our will." How so? That is the question the 
answer to which should light up Mill s whole position, 
and reveal the gulf, if any gulf there be, between him 
and that " Modified Fatalism " which he reprobates. 
This then is his reply or replies: 

R. i. " We can, by employing the proper means, 
improve our character." 

The reply merits all praise from the libertarian 
point of view. It is quite true. But how is it consis 
tent with " the true doctrine of the Causation of hu 
man actions," as laid down by Mill? To get that doubt 
solved, we are obliged to ask for an explanation of the 
terms of the reply received. What are the " proper 
means" by employing which we can improve our 
character? Mill replies as follows: 

R. 2. "The proper means for improving our cha 
racter are our own voluntary exertions." 

This reply is gathered from the last sentence in the 
extract quoted: "When we voluntarily exert our 
selves, as it is our duty to do, for the improvement of 
our character," etc. Again, an excellent reply, and, as 
it stands, conceived quite in a libertarian spirit. But 
this libertarian spirit Mill hastens to exorcise and cast 
out. For the sentence goes on: " These [voluntary ex 
ertions], like all other voluntary acts, presuppose that 



232 FREE WILL 

there was already something in our character, or in that 
combined with our circumstances, which led us to do 
so, and accounts for our doing so." Alas, alas, here we 
are back in the squirrel s cage, the vicious circle, from 
which Mill seems impotent to escape. By a singular 
method, which we may call Roundabout Fatalism, he 
derives our volitions from our character and circum 
stances, our character from our volitions and circum 
stances (one most important circumstance being no 
doubt that of heredity), and those volitions again from 
our character and circumstances. Then, except our 
character and circumstances cause and determine us so 
to do, we shall make no voluntary efforts for the im 
provement of our character. In what does this account 
differ from the "Modified Fatalism" which represents 
" our character having been made for us and not 
by us"? 

The only way to strike a difference, and it is a direct 
and very true way, is by saying that although character 
and circumstances must concur to induce us to make 
voluntary exertions to improve our character, for we 
can do nothing without motives, and motives suffer a 
sort of refraction in the character upon which they im 
pinge; nevertheless, it rests with us finally, having the 
motive for voluntary exertion, to ad upon it or to let 
it drop void and ineffectual, and this is an alternative 
ultimately ruled, not by motive and character, but by 
our own personal self. But this a statement of free will; 
the direct contrary of that doctrine of the "causation 
of human actions," i.e., their physical determination, 
which Mill maintains. 



JOHN STUART MILL 233 

"We are under a moral obligation," writes Mill, 
"to seek the improvement of our moral character." 
This may be accomplished by "voluntary exertions"; 
but, as we have seen, those voluntary exertions are 
determined by that very character which needs them 
for its improvement. Should the character not be re 
sponsive to the need, Mill provides another remedy. 
"If our character is such that while it remains what 
it is, it necessitates us to do wrong, it will be just to 
apply motives which will necessitate us to strive for 
its improvement"; which means that we may be justly 
punished to set us on the way of reform. Here is a 
duty which we cannot do until we are punished for 
not doing it; a moral obligation, the fulfilment of which 
rests with the strong arm of the law that grips us. 
Awaiting that, we lie like over-turned motor cars, 
helpless for all good on the wayside of life. It is diffi 
cult to see any moral obligation in such a position of 
necessity. 

Disagreeing with Mill in many things, I have never 
ceased to cherish for him a certain admiration. Since 
I first opened his pages, nearly forty years ago, I have 
everadmired his clear, incisive thought, his logical acu 
men, and his candour, shining out, as it often does, at the 
expense of his consistency. He is too ingenuous, too 
adverse to fatalism, too great a lover of individualism 
and liberty, to be a thorough determinist. In all this 
he forms a strong contrast to Hobbes, who drives his 
necessarianism, as he drives every other point of his 
grim philosophy, steadily and remorselessly to the 
final conclusion. 



234 FREE WILL 

The difference between determinism and fatalism is 
not so much in theory as in practice. The fatalist acts 
upon his theory, and either sits idle in the absence of 
strong emotion, or surrenders himself to the impulse 
in which he recognises his destiny. The determinist, 
in England at least, shuts his determinism up with his 
books; and, in active life, uses his free will vigorously. 
Whatever academicians may say, an illogical escape into 
the realms of truth is preferable to detention in the 
logical bonds of error once entered upon. Thus esca 
ping, on the whole we prosper in England, notwith 
standing much bad philosophy. 



Rickaby, J.J. B 

Free will and four 1133 

English philosophers. .F7R5 




Colophon

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